Happy Mother’s Day: Honouring my Ex?
30% of Ontario children will experience their parent’s divorce before the age of 18. That means that 1/3 of our children will be living in different houses, usually sharing time between Mom’s house and Dad’s house. Whether you have a shared or equal division of time with your children, holidays can present an interesting challenge when dealing with separation and divorce.
A big part of my divorce mediation practice involves coaching parents on how to deal with the various aspects of separation; whether it’s communication, helping children transition to living in 2 houses, working closely with the school system and also dealing with holidays and special events. I recently read that it takes a ½ year for every year married to truly recover from the emotional impact of divorce. You know you are healed when things don’t trigger an emotional response in you. Letting go of angry feelings or resentment is easier said than done. But holding on to resentment is like drinking poison and expecting it to affect the other person. There is no question putting personal feelings aside can be most challenging. But so absolutely necessary if you have children.
With Mother’s Day just around the corner, many families are going to be facing unique challenges with this special day. Here are some tips I offer to my clients when it comes to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and parents’ birthdays.
Be flexible about scheduling
It doesn’t matter which parent is scheduled to spend that special day with the children, Mother’s Day should be spent with their mom (and Father’s Day with dad). Being flexible with your ex around changing up the schedule is about giving your children the opportunity to spend that day with mom. Many children will have made a special craft or gift at school. Can you imagine a 7-year-old’s disappointment at having to wait until next Tuesday before he or she can give the special gift?
Honour the parent of your children
Allowing your children to honour the other parent is exactly what these special days are all about. If you have young children, helping them make a card or buy a present can go a long way in building the core values of respect and appreciation that all parents want their children to have. Remember – it’s not about you and your ex; it’s about your children wanting to have something special to give.
This can be a tricky situation for kids. They may want to acknowledge a step-parent but might feel they would hurt their biological parent’s feelings. Tips for step-parents: don’t pressure kids into this as they may struggling with trying to please everyone. Be a friend and supporter and that’s what kids will remember when they are adults. I remember my youngest step-daughter telling me when she was 20, “I always appreciated that you took me shopping for my mom’s birthday”.
Never criticize the other parent either. Children deserve to love their parents unconditionally and they don’t need to be in the middle of parental issues between mom and step-mom. You don’t need to compete for their love. Be at peace with your role as friend and support and they will appreciate that later on. For biological parents, you don’t need to worry about losing your children. You will forever be their parents. Be grateful they like their step-parent so much they want to acknowledge them. The more love the child can receive the better. Don’t take it personally.
Whether you’ve had an amicable separation or not, you can make this year different for your children. Give them the gift of allowing them to honour and be a part of Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day). Besides, I always say, our children will likely be making decisions for us when we are old. They might be choosing our nursing home; so teaching them the value of honouring their parents will come back to you.
Author – Colette Fortin, Owner of the Waterloo/Wellington/Kitchener Franchise