You Can’t Baby-Proof a Broken Heart: Helping Children Through Divorce


I baby-proofed my house with a vengeance. Dangerous electrical outlets were covered, cabinets that could pinch little fingers were locked, the toilet lid was locked down, and stairs were behind baby gates. I bought the highest-rated car seat and kept my children in the rear-facing, five-point harness for as long as I could. If there was a medal for “Baby-Proofing,” I would have checked it for sharp edges and worn it proudly.

I kept it up as those babies grew. I bought knee pads, bed rails, and put up a bright yellow, “Kid Alert” sign on the street when the kids were playing outside. I did everything I could do to protect my children against every threat of pain. I wanted to soften the hard parts of the world so my children wouldn’t get hurt. But I couldn’t soften the pain of divorce.


The real pain came from the swoop of a pen. Three pens actually. Mine, their father’s, and the judge who signed our divorce agreement. Three pens, three signatures, and pain that was as searing as it was deep. I went from the mom who feared bruises, to the one who participated in my children’s heartbreak. 

Where was the fix to this pain? Did Target sell band-aids that were big enough to cover a broken heart? Did Safety First sell a sadness-guard? Was there “angry water” alongside Gripe Water? How could I baby-proof divorce?

Despite all of my careful planning, my children were hurting, and I was helpless. I didn’t have tools for these owies. What kind of a mom was I if I couldn’t prevent this pain?

I held my children while they cried. I listened to them as they yelled. I gave them patience and love when they acted out their feelings. I told them that feelings are okay and that they had every right to be sad, angry, scared, and every other feeling in between. I reminded them they can be angry at me and I will still love them. I fought against my impulses to find a solution and I listened.

As helpless as I felt, I was the solution. My arms holding them, my voice reminded them they were safe. My patience and love were the solution. I found counselors, books about divorce, co-parenting classes, and friends who have gone through the same experience. I couldn’t stop the pain, but I could give my children a safe place and time to heal.

There are good days now as our newly re-formed family goes out to play. My children have scars from my divorce that I never wanted them to have, but they are strong as they run and climb. I feel the sun on my face and look at the world with new eyes. I can’t blunt and cover the hard edges, but I can give my children a soft home to grow from.


  1. Beautifully said, Heather. I relate, my own divorce was this last year. So very painful for everyone. Thank you for sharing.

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