Divorce is a sad fact of life. It is not a new phenomenon – parents have been getting divorced since the day that marriage was invented; and even before that couples would unite… and part.
Whichever way you look at it, divorce means something went wrong. Two people who, for all the right or wrong reasons, had pledged themselves to stick together to provide a secure family base for their children, are now splitting up. It didn’t work out the way it was supposed to.
Divorce has dark connotations because it affirms that something went wrong.
But, if you have read any of my other articles, you will know that I am not one for looking at the past to see who we can blame. What does interest me is looking forward – to see how you can make the best of a bad situation.
No one WANTS to get divorced. But if, for whatever reason, divorce has happened, or is going to happen, then lets at least limit the fallout as much as we can.
So, for the sake of the children, here are some tips on how to minimize the impact on the kids:
1. Children love both parents. Ideally, you should stick to the marriage for the sake of children, but if it is making everyone unhappy, then its best to put an end to it. Its important to remember you have a responsibility towards your children to provide a loving and caring home with both parents.
But, if your relationship is getting sour, for whatever reason, be honest about it. Deluding yourself or sweeping it under the carpet wont help. Face it and if you feel the need, ask for help – first for yourself, and then jointly as a couple. Make one more attempt to re-kindle the love you once had.
Note, this does NOT mean you should put up with an abusive relationship just to “stay together for the children”. Ongoing violence, drug abuse, acrimony, etc are NOT good for children. If you really need to get out, then get out.
2. If you must separate, be grown-up about it. Do your level best to separate amicably. Agree that things are not working out between you and that it is best to separate. Avoid lengthy court battles and custody disputes. Why? They cost you a bunch of money, drag down your emotions, preventing you from moving on with life, and ALWAYS end up with the children picking up the bad vibes and feeling very insecure.
3. Even if the other person has hurt you badly, he is still the parent of your child. And no child likes to hear bad things about their parents. Be honest with your children and answer their questions as dispassionately as you can, even though it may not be easy at times. Also, you need to reassure them that you are not going to leave too. Most children feel abandoned.
4. At the same time, do not defend the other parent if he/she proves to be constantly unreliable – not turning up for visits when promised, failing to send cards and presents, etc. Your child will be deeply disappointed, hurt, perplexed, and will believe (s)he must have done something wrong. Make it quite clear that it is NOT your child’s fault that you separated, nor their fault that the other parent is so unreliable.
5. Even if you have been badly hurt or angry, you must encourage your child to keep in contact with the other parent through phone calls, letters and occasional visits. Of course, if the visits become unpleasant, you might have to stop that. Usually, children need to know that both parents can be contacted. Dont pass on your perceptions and prejudices to your child.
6. Never send messages to the other parent through your children. If you have something to communicate, pick up the phone and say it; dont involve your children in your fights and arguments.
7. If the other parent really is harmful or abusive to the children, then do everything in your power to protect them. But make sure this is not just your own pain, guilt or jealousy speaking!
8. Joint custody, in which the child spends three days a week in one home and 4 days in the other almost never works. Children need a consistent place to call home, not to be batted back and forth between the two places. But if the other parent really is in a better position (emotinoally, financially, whatever) to look after the kids – then for their sake permit it! (Yes, I know that is hard, but it is time to be grown-up about all of this.) Also, do not try to control the parenting style or rules that your ex uses. You look after the parenting in your house and leave them to look after the parenting in their house.
9. Be sensitive about introducing new boyfriends/ girlfriends into the home. Children will harbor, for a long time, a fantasy that their parents will get back together. Bringing a new lover into the home dashes those hopes and will often result in an angry backlash from them. Understand where they are coming from and take it all slowly.
10. Above all, work on yourself. Learn from the experience, heal from the wounds, and by setting an example teach your children how to overcome a bad situation and turn it into a good one. If it doesnt kill you, you will come out of it stronger. Thats the lesson your children will learn and have hope instead of despair about human relationships.
You can protect your children from the fallout of your divorce if you handle it in a mature manner. Be calm, sensible and adult about all the issues that concern your children.
Ultimately, it all boils down to being the very best parent that you can be.