Dear Dr. Archer,
I have been divorced for two years, and my daughter really misses her dad. She still sees him two nights a week plus one day on the weekend, but she is still finding it difficult to be apart from us both.
When she's with her dad she misses me; when she's home she misses her dad and it's breaking my heart to the point that I'm not sure what to do.
Her dad and I are still friends and try to keep our daughter stable, but she's a worried 8 year old who wishes her parents were still together. I'm finding it hard to cope with her sadness.
I'm taking on my daughter's feelings, which makes me wonder if I should have left my ex in the first place. Her heart is so broken. Please help me, as I'm in a rut, and oh so worried for my daughter.
Any time parents choose divorce, children face multiple stressors. They blame themselves, fear the unknown and question the love from both parents. Change can be scary and it’s hard seeing the parents separate rather than together.
Because of increased demands in general, the custodial parent is often psychologically less available for the child. Adjustments to these changes can take a year or longer.
The fact is Josie, most children eventually adjust to the situation, but some will continue to experience problems, even into adulthood. The sensitivity both you and your husband show towards your daughter along with understanding her needs is the most important factors in helping her adjust and accept this change.
Your daughter was 6 when you two split. Children between 6 and 8 often fantasize about their parents making up and getting back together. They're not as likely as a younger child to blame themselves. When they reach 9 - 10 years of age, they're much better able to understand divorce and this is partly because they have friends who have been through a parental divorce of their own.
Josie, from what I understand, you and your ex are putting your daughter first and foremost, and I congratulate you both on this effort. Smart parents who act like adults end up with post divorce children who are psychologically similar to children from families that remain intact.
There are millions of children who are the product of divorce. Go to your library or online and search in her age appropriate section for books that talk about it. This can help as she relates with the child in the book. Divorce doesn't mean mommy and daddy no longer love her but that they live better apart, and that their love for her remains constant.
You should never go back or stay in an unhappy marriage just for the sake of your daughter, Josie. It's much healthier for her to see mom and dad happy apart than it is to see mom and dad unhappy under one roof with an abundance of stress and negative energy. You left for a reason, and you must remember that reason.
If you and your ex got back together, it would be the same ol' same ol' all over again. I don't think you want to put him, her or you through that again, do you? IF the two of you reconciled, it would have to be for all the right reasons, not just to make your daughter happy.
One day she will be grown and gone, and then you and your husband would be left looking at each other. You'd have to make certain that he's the one you want to spend your life with.
If you're certain it would work the second time around, then go for it. HOWEVER, if you have the slightest reservations, then DON'T. It would be much, much harder on your daughter the second time around. Just remember this, Josie, it's much healthier to come from a broken home, rather than to live in one. Please trust me on that.
Keep her needs first, make sure you both give her the love and support she needs, and let her know you and your ex will always be there for her. If this is done correctly, your daughter will become a secure, confident young woman. I wish the three of you all the best.