One of my friends mentioned a thoughtful sensitivity about which single parent was losing time with a child when that child was visiting her kids. She did not want to make things harder for a parent who might already be unhappy about how little time he or she got with his or her kids. She also expressed some discomfort about never meeting the second parent of a boy who had become a good friend of her son’s. It seemed strange not to be acquainted with both parents.
My primary reaction is not to worry about these matters. Just let the kids enjoy being kids together. Let them play. Encourage them to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. Offer them nutritious snacks. Encourage activities that do not involve TV screens or computer screens.
Life may be difficult for estranged parents, whether their children are visiting your children or not. It probably helps to know that their kids are with friends in a place where a responsible adult is providing some supervision.
Lots of kids are growing up with a divorced parent or with a parent who never married. Most of them have some contact with their other original parent. Many of the parents live with considerable stress. They face the same challenges that employed parents face when there is no stay-at-home parent. They have to arrange child care for their job hours, deal with long commutes, miss time at work when a child gets sick, provide transportation for children’s extra-curricular activities, handle cooking, shopping, cleaning, supervision of homework, and household chores, and try to find some times when they can relax and have fun with their kids.
Some of the single parents have to do all that with almost no time off from 24/7 responsibilities. Maybe they get two weekends a month to do all of the things they cannot do while the kids are around or it’s a go-to-work day. Maybe they get 12 to 24 hours a month to go have grown-up fun. It is not likely that letting their kids play with your kids is taking the kids away from time they could have enjoyed with one of their parents.
Meanwhile, most kids have friends whose parents are no longer together. That’s just part of life now. It was always part of life for kids who had a parent in the military stationed far from home for months at a time. Now living with a single parent or a stepparent is more common than ever before, partly because of divorces and partly because of an increase in births that result from a man and a woman who are not married having intercourse.
There are times when kids and parents are having difficulty adjusting to a recent separation or some other stressor. They may need a supportive listener or a friend to bolster their self-esteem and self-confidence. They might love to have help with transportation or planning or doing.
Much of the time, however, children whose parents have parted may not need any special treatment from you. Just let them enjoy being kids. Let your relationships with their parents be whatever develops.
Author's Note: Nothing here should be construed as legal advice or professional therapeutic advice. The author is a Certified Family Mediator. She is not an attorney or a clinical psychologist. Additional information is available at fairfaxmediator.com.