“Mom, a new girl is in our class. Her parents just got divorced and she was crying. That must be so hard for her. Are you and Dad going to ever get divorced?”
It was the question that my elementary aged daughter asked me that I knew was coming…I just didn’t know it was coming at that exact moment.
“Your Dad and I work really hard on our marriage and to stay together. I can’t promise you that we won’t ever get a divorce, but we love you and your brother and work really hard to stay together. It’s not easy, but you should know that if it were to happen, we would still love you and your brother so much.”
She answered with an okay Mom and went off on her merry way. But I just didn’t feel like I was answering her the right way.
So I consulted my husband who said, “You told her WHAT?? She’s so young! She just wants the reassurance that we are going to stay together. You should have told her ‘yes’ we will stay together.”
Which didn’t help me. It just made me feel worse. What should I have told her? And are you and your spouse torn on what to say when your kids ask?
Should you go with my realistic approach? I didn’t feel that I should lie to her by saying a divorce would never happen. Because none of us know what the future brings or if we will be together. But I did feel that she needed to know that she and her brother would continue to be loved…no matter what. And I did want her to know that a marriage is work and takes effort. And that her Dad and I work hard on our marriage.
My husband felt she was too young to get the “realistic” take on marriage and divorce. That all she wanted to hear at that moment was that she was loved and her parents were going to stay together. She needed to know that her parents were there for her.
Since we were torn on the subject, I decided to turn to those who have answers. PBS Kids, a station devoted to children and public education states this about divorce, “Listening to your friend talk about his or her parents’ divorce can make you wonder, “could this happen to me?” If you want to put your fears to rest, you might ask your parents about their marriage. What do they do to get through the tough times? How do they stay in love?”
So in a way I was right. I did tell her that we work hard on our marriage and make sure that we work just as hard on our marriage as we do helping them and working to build our relationship with them.
But I think that I missed a key point. Instead of focusing on us, I really should have tried hard to help her friend. I should have helped my daughter know what to say to her friend that she could reassure her friend. Maybe I should have asked my daughter how she felt, and if she had any other questions.
But I didn’t. But it was a great learning experience for me.