We all know those movies, mother and father are separated, the kids come up with a fantastic plan, and with a couple of humorous bumps and twists, they get their parents back together … problem solved! Why are these shows so popular? It’s because many children, whose parents have divorced, hold on to the fantasy that their parents will reunite one day. The truth is that they carry a very deep pain because of the divorce, and if their parents were to change their minds, that pain would go away and they keep on having the fantasy of their divorced parents reuniting.
A friend of mine told me the other day that she dreamt of her parents getting back together. Her parents divorced when she was a child, and she is an adult now with her own lovely family. She laughed and made light of the dream, but it shows that the hope of that happening one day lives on and on. It shouldn’t be a surprise really. That time in their life when their parents were together is so often a treasured memory. Who wouldn’t want to go back to that?
Hollywood endings do make it hard for kids to face reality. Life doesn’t turn out like the movies, as much as we would love it to. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying these stories, but it may be in order to gently remind children that “firstly, divorce is an adult problem and kids can’t fix it, and secondly, it’s not their responsibility to try and mend things.” Releasing our children from these thoughts can potentially save them from deep-seated issues later in life.
That said, I encourage parents to be gracious with the fairy tale their children hold in their hearts. This fantasy comes from a place of hope, which is a delicate and beautiful thing. Hope vs reality … it’s a hard one, I know.
Think of it this way: I live in hope of winning the lottery and my husband lives in hope of being a famous guitarist. Who doesn’t have a fabulous dream after all? However, if that dream causes us harm mentally or emotionally, we need a reality check.
What can we offer our children in place of the fanciful dream of a “divorce rewind”? I propose that bringing their attention to happy memories could be a meaningful and effective departure point. A sense of deep thankfulness and acknowledgement that good things have happened to them can give them hope that good things can happen again. It’s almost like good memories hold hands with hope.
In the grief chapter of “The Mending Chronicles of Liam and Emily”, there is an activity where the reader is invited to draw their favourite memory of their family together before the divorce. Many children draw a scene from a happy family holiday. (You may not have the same warm feeling of that time, but in your child’s memory everyone was together and their hearts were full.) Giving children a chance to hold up that amazing time and say to themselves, “I was so happy then,” could encourage them to draw joy from the past and be hopeful that more happy times are coming.
With a directed conversation, a caring adult could point out that the fantasy of their divorced parents reuniting probably won’t happen, but there is the potential for them to be as happy as they were in that picture again sometime in the future. There will be different circumstances and possibly different faces, but happiness will be theirs once more. Memories are a springboard for hope to come.
All is not lost after divorce. What a wonderful achievement if we can help our children to harness their happy memories and use them to reach out for a hopeful future. Conversations around topics like this are a healing balm on wounded young hearts. Where there is hope, new dreams can begin to grow.