Admittedly for most parents, this question can bring up stress from past divorce or separation trauma. This is absolutely normal, and you are not alone in that. I will say that I’ve learned that it’s important to take a step back from the emotional rollercoaster of thoughts in your mind and assess what your child is needing by asking you that question. It’s no secret that a child’s self-esteem is strongly related to how they view their own parents. If they hear negative things about their parent, they are likely to believe that they also embody those negative traits. Unfortunately in high-conflict coparenting families, the hatred that each parent may harbor for the other is very discernable for the children involved. This matters because, like it or not, a child’s sense of self can be damaged when they hear negative things about their parent. So what is one to do? Although I can’t answer that question for you, I can tell you what has worked for me and my ‘little’ for the past 11 years. My son was a mere toddler when he looked up at me while I was zipping up his winter coat and asked me if I still loved his Daddy. My answer was simple.
“I will always love your Daddy because he gave me you.”
I will forever remember the look of satisfaction and contentment that came over my little guy’s face when he heard me say those words. And it was the truth. Despite how I feel or felt at the time about his father, I knew one thing – I was so blessed to have this little one in my life. Through the years I have continued to answer that question with the same answer as I find that it is still the absolute truth that resonates within my soul. More importantly, providing this answer to his question seemed to offer him a sense of peace, security and belonging. My answer didn’t need to encompass any negative feelings nor any discussion about ‘grown up’ things. My answer to his question simply needed to address his anxiety in a way that would offer him a heaping dose of love and support.