Divorce is, unfortunately, a common end to a troubled marriage. When kids are involved, the conflict that was in the relationship, however, rarely ceases when the final paperwork is signed. Parents quickly realize that the problems they had while married not only continue but often become even worse. But it doesn’t have to be this way. By focusing on a few key points, you can find peace after divorce and raise happy, well-adjusted kids.
Sit your kids down and specifically tell them that the divorce is not their fault.
Children have an uncanny way of accepting the blame for divorce. They will remember the most unusual incidents, like asking for an expensive present or misbehaving. It is imperative that you tell them explicitly and often that they are loved unconditionally by both parents and that it was the parents who could not get along. They need to hear this.
Make a commitment to get along with your ex.
This can be extremely difficult. But whether you like it or not, you will have this person in your life for as long as your children are in your life. Divorce does not end your relationship with your ex. It only changes it. You are now a co-parent. This relationship should be similar to a co-worker or business partner. It should be respectful and professional. You share a very important common goal: raising your children. You cannot allow past resentments or personal feelings get in the way of this goal. If you do, will be undermining the health and well-being of your children. Stay focused on your kids and don’t allow your past marital issues to interfere. The marriage relationship is over and the business of raising your kids must be the priority now.
Separate your relationship with your ex from your kids’ relationship with your ex.
A very important concept to embrace is the fact that children NEED their parents. This is not a want or desire. This is a NEED. You can hate your ex. You can hate what they do, how they treat you, how they parent and the choices they make. But your children need each of their parents. It is your job, as a parent, to ensure that your kids have a relationship with BOTH parents. If you don’t nurture and encourage these relationships, you are not giving your children what they NEED to grow up healthy and happy. If you believe your ex is a poor parent, allow your kids to discover that for themselves. That is between your ex and the kids. But your job is to give your kids the chance to experience their other parent and have every opportunity to develop the best relationship possible. You should never undermine the relationship between the children and your ex in any way. If you do, you are depriving your children of a legitimate need. Don’t be that parent.
Don’t keep your kids in an eternal broken family.
Many divorced families continue to refer to themselves as families: mom, dad and kids. I vehemently disagree with this. When parents describe themselves in this manner, then the kids never really belong anywhere. They are constantly torn between two homes. You are divorced. You are now two, separate and distinct families. You are mom and kids. You are dad and kids. This allows everyone to move on in their lives and welcome new members to their prospective families with open arms. Mom and kids can welcome new members with love and graciousness because a new member is not a threat to the family that includes dad. Dad is not a part of that family. Dad is a separate family, who is also free to welcome new members. Kids are perfectly able to separate their family dynamics, just as we are. This philosophical distinction helps so much when kids are trying to move on from their parents’ divorce and when they are adjusting to new members in their families, eg new partners, stepsiblings, new babies. Instead of being viewed as intruders, these new people are simply happy additions.
Let kids be kids.
Keep the kids out of issues that don’t or shouldn’t involve them. Don’t give them information they don’t need to have. Don’t inform them of bad behaviors of their other parent. Don’t try to get them on your side. Don’t make them messengers between their parents. Do everything you can to protect them from any negativity between their parents. This is really difficult. But it is so important. You must be constantly vigilant. Just imagine how you would feel if you really loved someone, say your spouse. And someone else you really loved, like your mother, was constantly making jokes or saying nasty things about your spouse. Wouldn’t that feel just awful? You love both people and don’t want to choose. Now imagine being a kid and having no ability to just leave or make anybody stop what they are doing. You have to respect your child’s point of view and allow them to have a loving relationship with their other parent, freely and without guilt.
Get help if you need it.
If you are feeling bitter or resentful about the divorce, you will be of little help to your children. You don’t want your children to grow up bitter and resentful. You don’t want them to grow up wounded. So get help. See a therapist or a doctor. Work through your feelings. You can regain a positive outlook on life. You need to feel positive in order to present positivity to your kids. If you need help adjusting your perspective, then get the help. You are a powerful role model. Your children will follow in your footsteps. Make sure it’s a path you want them to follow.
Divorce is not the worst thing that can happen to a family. For some families, it is the best outcome. But it is not easy. Just remember, the most vulnerable people in a divorce are the children. When you keep your attitude positive and stay focused on your kids and their needs, you have a better chance of having a peaceful and successful life after divorce. And most importantly, your kids have a better shot of surviving your divorce, happy and well-adjusted.
Your thoughts, comments and suggestions are always welcome!