Most of our divorcing clients with minor children are worried first and foremost about how the divorce will affect their children. When starting the divorce process clients often ask how to best tell the children about the divorce, how to protect them from emotional trauma, and what a co-parenting relationship will look like going forward. Here are three things to consider when walking through a divorce with minor children.
Remember You Love Your Kids More Than You Hate Your Ex.
This shouldn’t be a hard concept to navigate – but when you get in the weeds in the divorce process, we find it often is. We remind our clients continually of this concept. It is especially difficult to remember in relationships where one spouse has been taken advantage of or is resentful at the other person. This is commonly seen in cases where the spouse has been unfaithful and/or where there has been financial abuse or neglect There will no doubt be a lot of compromise and tongue biting. Keep in mind this is not for your (ex-) partners benefit, it’s for your children.
Just because your marriage has ended, your relationship with your children as their parent has obviously not. During and after a divorce you may constantly have to remind yourself that your children are innocent bystanders of the divorce. They did not ask for this. They did not cause this. No matter what has transpired in the marriage, you must censor and self-edit your spoken words and reactions to your now ex or soon to be ex-spouse. It’s imperative that your kids never hear disparaging comments about their other parent. Your children unconditionally love both of you. When they are faced with bad mouthing and fighting, they can feel torn to pick a side. This would naturally cause distress to the children.
My cell phone photo of my ex-husband is a photo of my child with her father. It reminds me she has a dad who is a very different person to her than he is to me. It helps me put her above any feelings I may have regarding his past or present behavior. This is the best thing I can do for my child and for myself as well.
In divorce coaching we work on presenting one’s best self to our children. This includes walking through a parenting plan to set expectations and discuss fears/concerns. Further, the more my clients are aware of the choices they are faced with, the more they can emotionally prepare for mediation or litigation. In divorce cases involving minor children, knowledge absolutely is power!! Working with a divorce coach on what to expect and how to cope with the decisions you must make may save both you and your children a lot of emotional turmoil and fear.
Don’t Let the Divorce Influencing You Parenting Choices
As a coach and having been through my own divorce, I realize this can be hard. However, for the sake of your kids, it can’t be overlooked. If your gut reaction is to make the other parent pay for the situation you are in or trying to “make them see what they did” – it can really hurt your children (and you, and it just doesn’t work.)
Do you remember what it was like to parent your kids before your divorce? Were you working as a team at that point? That’s exactly how you should proceed now. Ultimately, you want your kids to feel loved and accepted at both houses. My clients are encouraged to process their emotions while looking out for the best interest of their children. This means overriding your hurt and frustration to make sound choices based on your children’s needs. As I mentioned, I’ve experienced this situation firsthand. For example, one rule my ex-husband and I put into place was that our children could decide to visit the other parent even if it didn’t fall on a visitation day. If the other parent agreed, we would make it happen. The one exception was that if the child was angry at either one of us, they wouldn’t use the other parent as an escape.
Can You Create a Better Life Now Than Ever Before?
My clients love this question because it allows for creating strategies for this new lifestyle, they now have the opportunity to focus on the kids without the other parent’s approval. There is one less person to take into account, clean up after, and compromise with on daily routines. This can lead to more quality time, establishing new parenting ideas, and even creating new traditions.
I’ve coached many clients who feel refreshed on their non visitation days. They often feel guilty for the break. Single parenting is hard work. You’re on the clock 24/7. There is absolutely no reason to feel bad about the need to decompress and enjoy time alone when the kids aren’t home. This actually helps you be a better parent when the kids do come home.
A child centered divorce isn’t easy. It’s about constant and consistent compromise, but you can do it! This is an effort that will pay off in the long run. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 50% of first marriages end in divorce. If or when you decide to remarry, and you choose someone who also had divorced parents, the failure rate goes up to 80%. Consider how intentionally creating a child centered divorce can and will affect your kids. You get to decide what kind of divorce legacy you and your ex-spouse are passing down.
For help navigating divorce with minor children please call us today to schedule a coaching consultation and look for more articles of navigating the emotional side of divorce at www.DivorceStrategiesGroup.com