Gary says children often blame themselves after a divorce and secretly believe that they can somehow fix things. "Kids want to feel responsible for the divorce because it gives this some sense of control that 'I can make them come back,'" Gary says.
Daisy tells Gary that she tried to look pretty to make her mom want to come back. And Kris says he gave his mom "puppy eyes" and bought her a ring with his allowance, but she didn't want it.
This is the time when Gary says a parent needs to break the cardinal rule. "Children in these circumstances, we cannot have them feeling that they are somewhat responsible for the rejection from the parent who has abandoned them. So that's the time when we have to say to our children, 'It is wrong as a parent not to be there for your child.'"
Gary explains to Daisy and Kris, "Sometimes people have problems in their mind and it limits them and it stops parents from giving the love that children deserve. Your dad is here because you guys are terrific and you deserve to have two parents. And if you have this one, that's going to be good enough. You did not make her go away and you cannot make her come back."
To help them express their feelings, Gary has Daisy and Kris write letters to their mother. "I miss baking cookies as a family and you helping us do our homework. I still love you, Mom, but what you did in the past makes me not love you so much like I used to," Daisy writes.
Kris writes, "When I think of you and Daddy not living together, I feel so sad. I do not understand why you got divorced. Sometimes I dream about Dad being sad. About not having you around. I wish that you didn't get a divorce."
Print this letter writing exercise and help your kids express their emotions.
Whether or not their mother gets these letters, Gary says they will help lift the burden that Daisy and Kris feel. "Regardless of who it goes to, the expression itself is healing," Gary says. "Tomorrow and the next day they're going to walk lighter and that sparkle in their eye is going to be back more and more."