Co-Parenting ABCs: They're Not Just Your Memories

A lot of cleaning house takes place in the aftermath of divorce, literally and figuratively.   Wedding and other photos that include your co-parent may be among the first things to be tossed on the "get rid of" pile, and understandably so.  Those pictures can serve as painful reminders of what was, and they can trigger feelings of regret, hurt, anger, and disappointment.  But before you haul out the shredder, consider this: Those  aren't just your memories.  They are shared, in part, with your children.


One of co-parenting's most important tenets and biggest challenges is seeing your ex and the divorce through your child's eyes. 

To your child, those pictures are still treasures, perhaps even more cherished now that the family he once knew is no more.  With divorce, you are not able to give your child the intact family he desires, but you can allow him to hold on to memories, symbols of what was, even if you don't want to hold on to them.

This is not to suggest that you should keep your 14 x 17 wedding portrait hanging over the fireplace.  Perhaps this portrait or a smaller one can be hung in your child's room or placed on his nightstand.  The photos that are painful for you to see can be compiled into a photo album for him to keep in a special place to look through whenever he wants. 

Keep in mind that timing is everything.  Looking ahead to the future in which you begin to date again and possibly re-marry, your new significant other shouldn't have to wonder why there's a poster-sized picture of your ex dominating the living room.  Also, removing the picture because there's now Someone New in your life will be harder on your child than removing it earlier, simply as part of the divorce transition.

Some parents think that allowing the child to keep photos they'd rather not see again is a bad idea because it may feed the child's fantasy of a parental reconciliation that's never going to happen.  They don't want to encourage such fantasies because they don't want to add to the child's disappointment.  But the reality for many kids is, no matter how much evidence to the contrary, no matter how many photos you take away, they will hold on to that fantasy. 

Further, destroying the photos may suggest to your child that her family is being destroyed.  This does not have to be the case.  Divorce ends marriages, but familes endure.  Allowing your child to keep treasured photos can affirm to her that even though her family is now comprised of two separate households, with parents who lead separate lives, she is still part of a loving, caring family.