Several people have emailed me recently wanting to know how they can help their children or other children in their lives in the aftermath of a divorce. I’ll have a lot more to say on that as time goes on, but for starters how about letting them be kids? Does childhood even exist anymore? I wonder that sometimes when I hear about parents running Bobby or Susie from one after school enrichment activity to another, most of which are designed more to further the child’s marketability to colleges than to have fun. And I’m talking about 5 year olds! Whatever happened to lemonade stands as an introduction to business principles or riding a bike with no hands as a way to develop athletic skill?
For many children of divorce, childhood is cut woefully short when kids have to take on real adult-sized responsibility. Here are two examples from an article on CBN’s web site:
" 'My father was there one day, and he was gone the next,' Jeff said, 'leaving a lawn mower in the garage saying, 'I guess this will be your responsibility now.’ I remember him calling home from trips -- 'We're visiting castles.' I'm mowing the grass...' ”
"Laura also remembers extra responsibility. 'My mom showed me how to do the laundry,' she said. 'and from then on I did my laundry. What 7-year-old does their own laundry? I suppose it's common now, but none of my friends did that.' "
(Laura, I don't know any 7-year-olds who do their own laundry.)
Meanwhile, some “adults” (and here I can only use that term loosely) are making light of divorce. An article in National Review Online says: " 'divorce parties' are all the rage. Was your marriage on the rocks? Well, the divorce papers are signed and it's now time to play 'pin the blame on the ex' and 'throw the wedding ring in the toilet' games — or so it is if you talk to the likes of the author of The Woman's Book of Divorce: 101 Ways to Make Him Suffer Forever and Ever"
Talk about role reversals! The kids are taking on mom’s and dad’s chores while mom and dad are playing kids’ games. Yeah, it’s an extreme example, but it happens in more subtle ways, as well.
So, my advice for the day: Let kids be kids! If you know some kids (even your own) whose parents are divorced take them to Chuck E. Cheese tonight. Laugh with them, let them beat you at skee ball, feed them more pizza than is good for them. If you know someone who is divorced and has kids, offer to mow the grass or ask how else you can help out. If the adults step up to the plate, maybe the kids can go play ball.