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When your child's other parent leaves

Sometimes when couples divorce, the process is amicable and each former partner is able to remain a healthy and stable part of their mutual child’s life. However, this scenario is not one that is played out in every family. Some former spouses bitterly dispute their child custody arrangements because each desperately wants primary or sole custody of their children. Still other families are split in ways that leave one parent in sole custody of a child not by choice but because the child’s other parent has left.

This scenario is often uniquely heartbreaking. While the remaining parent is spared a custody dispute and the child is spared tension between co-parents, any affected child tends to struggle with the feeling that he or she has been abandoned by the parent who has left.

The Huffington Post recently published a story highlighting an essay entitled “Why Did Daddy Leave Us?” The profound piece is written by a mother, but the sentiment applies to anyone who has had a parent choose to leave. The essay’s author explains that while she is deeply hurt and is thinking about how selfish and inadequate her former romantic partner has become, she keeps these thoughts to herself and instead says exactly what her child needs to hear.

She assures the child, “I love you. I am so sorry that daddy made a choice that hurt us when he left, but this was not your fault. He is not a bad person, he just made a bad choice that hurt a lot of people and I am really sorry that it hurt you.” By focusing on her child’s needs and processing her own hurt feelings apart from her child’s hurt feelings, the author was able to voice a healthy and thoughtful response. If you are struggling with processing your child’s abandonment by his or her other parent, you may benefit from taking this author’s cues.

Source: The Huffington Post, “What to Say to Your Kid When a Parent Leaves,” Tracy Schorn, July 30, 2014

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