I read a poignant comment on a blog recently written by a married mother of three. She was a child of divorce whose father moved out of the home when she was four. She talks about having very few pictures of herself as a child and only one of her mother and father together. Her grandfather found and gave her the photo just a few years ago. She framed it and has proudly displayed it in her home for her own children to see.
She explains how special that one photo of her with Mom and Dad is to her. It shows a little girl sitting happily on a lawn with her “real” family – before the divorce.
This woman grieves that she has no other photographs of her father and so few pictures of her childhood. She assumes that her mother hid or destroyed all other photos, “possibly to protect my stepparents’ feelings” as she moved on into other chapters in her life.
She goes on to send a message to all divorced parents who are transitioning into blended families. She stresses the importance of keeping previous family photographs to give to your children at the appropriate time – and not throwing them away. She implores people who are marrying men or women with children to “be the grownup” and acknowledge that children of divorce have other relationships that are meaningful and important to them.
Having pictures, gifts and other reminders of the non-custodial parent is very important to your children. We must never forget the connection and allegiance children innately feel toward both of their parents. When one parent is dismissed, put down or disrespected by the other parent, a part of your child is hurt as a result. They also feel that a part of themselves is flawed which creates much internal confusion.
Allow your children to keep their connection with their other parent – and with their past, unless they choose otherwise. If you’re a step-parent, don’t try to replace the birth Mom or Dad. There is room in a child’s heart to embrace and love you, as well, if you earn their trust and respect. You can’t demand or force it.
The woman’s blog post ends by asking us to imagine how we would feel if someone came into our family and discarded all the photos of Mom and Dad together. If we could just put ourselves in our children’s shoes on a regular basis we would avoid so many errors in parenting, and so many psychological scars.