Today would have been our 22nd wedding anniversary and despite everything that’s gone on since, I am grateful for the every minute that I had with the man I married because through good and bad, through rough and smooth, I learnt so much, grew tremendously as a result of the experience and am the person I am today on the back of the rich tapestry of life that my marriage was a part of. And of course, there are the four wonderful, loving, fantastic fab4 (children) who remind me how great love can be – forever the phoenix and a legacy of the good we shared when it was good.
Critically though, bringing children through divorce with positive outcomes is a tricky pathway that takes careful consideration, a huge amount of respect by all parties and the ability to avoid the blame game with a subscription to a truthful, honest and integral responsibility. Children do not want to be embroiled in a war of parental bitterness and recrimination and do best when parents can uphold each other in front of the children without slating or demeaning the other parent for essentially the children remain a blend of both parents wending their own unique pathway through life.
Taking the time to remember the good in the other parent that founded your relationship initially is often a helpful way to approach this. Not only does it help the children but it can also act as a remedial balm for the hurting parent as well.
Probably the hardest task to conquer is to separate out the emotions and processes. Attempting to distinguish between feelings and processes particularly where legal matters and money are involved can help considerably. It isn’t easy to compartmentalize especially when the two are so linked but establishing a degree of separation between the two will help in the longer term not just personally but in continuing to nurture the lives of the children involved.
Additionally, keeping vigilant about what is said in the earshot of children is also critical. Children do not want to play or sit in a room of parents speaking ill of the absent parent. They are particularly astute at picking up on subtle nuances so it best to avoid any discussions on the subject if they are in the vicinity particularly when emotions are running high. It is important to talk through upsetting or worrying matters with a confidant but not when the children are around.
Also being mindful about what is posted online is worth considering! Remembering that nothing is ever 100% confidential however tight the privacy settings online is well worth note when relating to potential snarky comments about the ex. Children again do not want to read nasty comments or feel they have to take sides and what you think they might not have access to, may be revealed from another source!
Being aware of the hurt that relatives and friends will feel is also important as this can sometimes be unconsciously portrayed to the children if not considered. Taking the time to speak openly to others about the fact that you still uphold the children’s heritage remains important (whatever the circumstance) and can deter others from making inappropriate statements in front of them. This applies to new partners involving themselves in disputes with estranged (step)children and ex-partners. If the content of discussions spills into a forum the children have access to it will only inflame or make matters worse particularly if the children have not met the new partner yet.
Trying to retain some objectivity is essential as well as taking the time to see the other side of the coin (whether you like it or agree with it or not). When children ask questions remain neutral, fair and honest – not easy but to honour the children essential. Children are a lot more forgiving than we often give them credit but they don’t want to feel they have to compromise their love between their Mum and Dad or worse still not be able to talk to one parent because they can sense the implicit judgement.
Not using children as pawns in financial battles is key to positive outcomes. Even where child maintenance is not being paid and money is tight, children should not be involved. If they are old enough to recognize changes that might come about due to financial hardship on the back of the divorce disassociating the monetary issues and an ex are vital to a healthy outcome.
Not steeping children or burdening them with unreasonable responsibility because of a divorce is also worth bearing in mind. For instance, an oldest son should not become the man of the house just because Dad is no longer living at home! Children need to be children and go through the passage of childhood just like any other children whether they come from a divorced household or not.
Finally, divorce is not an excuse for values and standards to drop, discipline to be abolished and children to be excused because they are “going through a tough time”. They need clearer boundaries than ever before, more transparent principals and rules when their world is so rapidly changing. They need to be encouraged to rise to challenge, to achieve despite any adversity and above all to embrace compassion, empathy and understanding. Children thrive with stability and security – consistency is very much part of that.
A code of love, respect and responsibility therefore goes hand in hand in paving positive outcomes for children who are facing the divorce of their parents.