My Valentine for separated or divorced parents

Here it comes. Valentine’s Day – a barrage of ads for the roses, the jewelry, the chocolate, the romantic dinner.  All those reminders of lost dreams can be painful, for sure. This holiday, with its emphasis on romantic love, is likely to create or reinforce difficult emotions for you as a no-longer-married person.

The first is to remind you of the losses of ending a marriage with children, which may increase feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, and worries about the future. The second is to prompt you to move too quickly into a new romance at a time when you’re very vulnerable. What’s “too quickly?” It’s any time before you and your children have had time to adjust to the divorce emotionally. Generally that’s one to two years. There are many reasons for this – as reflected in the striking statistic that second marriages end in divorce a whopping 60 percent of the time.

In both cases, your children feel the impact as well. When you are drawn into your own sadness, you’re less available to them. And they worry about you. When a new potential partner enters your life, your children experience a myriad of difficult emotions – confusion, resentment, fear of being lost in the shuffle or replaced by someone more important to you, and torn loyalties to their other parent, to name just a few of them.

So here’s my valentine to you – a suggestion that I hope will help you and your children. Celebrate Valentine’s Day as a day of love for them. Start a new ritual. Make each other valentines that say all the things that are special about them. If your children are old enough to hold a spoon, make Valentine’s Day supper together, and set the table complete with candles. Plan a menu of foods you all love. If the vote is for pancakes or pizza, go for it, and know that you’re making good memories for years to come. Read a book or watch a movie together. Above all, hug your children and reassure them that the kind of love you have for them will never end; that you’ll always, always love them and take care of them.

If you approach Valentine’s Day this way, you will be giving yourself and your children a gift that keeps on giving: a lifetime of love.