Guest Post from 1Life Blog
It’s difficult being divorced with kids. Breakups are hard enough to manage without having to take into consideration the needs and fears of the children. Since there’s a good chance you’ll have to continue to interact with your ex, even when you’d rather not, the 1Life blogging team suggests you consider these ways in which you can make your family work, for the sake of your children.
Prioritise their sense of security. However complicated your feelings may be towards your child’s other parent, remember that your priority is to make your children feel safe. Children do not feel safe if the adults around them are in conflict. So instead of responding to a complicated situation with a knee-jerk response, make your first thought, “How can we deal with this to make my children feel secure and happy?”
Do what you can to put aside your differences for their sake. If there are points of contention between you and the other parent, it’s important to communicate, but sometimes it’s also just as important to get over it. Children learn from a variety of different attitudes and approaches, and unless your child is coming to direct harm, it’s sometimes healthier to just let everybody be.
Understand, support and nurture their loyalty to all family members. Whatever you do, don’t try to get your child on your side, or convince them that your negative feelings about their other parent are appropriate. Your children should not be encouraged to feel anger or disdain for their parent – no matter what they have done. Instead, do what you can to foster your children’s love and respect for both their parents. If that’s a step too far, at least be respectful of your children’s feelings and don’t try to create split loyalties.
If you can’t be inclusive, at least be polite. Some families are able to get together in a happy bundle that includes exes and steps and whomever else over weekends and the holidays, but for others, this will never be possible. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, it is important to be polite when you encounter your ex. This means stopping what you are doing to greet them, exchanging pleasantries, and even having a quick cup of tea together when the kids are handed over or dropped off. This makes all the difference in the world to easing tensions in your children’s eyes, and will probably help you as well.
Be honest about your feelings in ways that are manageable for your children. If your children are older or have been exposed to obvious animosity in your relationship with their other parent, you can discuss your feelings with them, but frame them in a way that helps the child to understand them. It’s fine to say, “Sometimes your Dad and I disagree about things and it makes me sad, but it’s just because we both want what’s best for you.” Don’t ever use words that suggest that you are lost or out of control. Saying “I don’t know what I am going to do,” or “This makes me so angry, I can’t go on,” is not reassuring for a child.
Be as fair as you can be with time If there is a custody arrangement, or even if there isn’t, try to be as fair as you can about the time your children spend with the other parent. Don’t be petty about the exact dropoff time if it doesn’t make a difference to your schedule. Likewise, don’t perpetually be inconsiderate with your timekeeping when it comes to handing your child over to the other person. Being flexible and considerate will go a long way to easing tensions between both parties, and will hopefully engender the same attitude from the other parent towards you.
Accept that different people have different ways of showing love and making contributions. Parental love cannot be measured in time or money. When couples are married, they don’t always split their contributions evenly in half. After a divorce, don’t try to compare the contributions, but rather see if each parent can still participate in ways that they are good at. Obviously, if a parent isn’t pulling their weight or living up to promises, this needs to be addressed, but if they are showing love in their own way, let them be.
Work towards celebrating the range of diverse people in your child’s life. Divorce is hard for children, and having other people responsible for your kids can be tough on you. However, it takes a village to raise a child, and it’s possible that the varied contributions to their upbringing will benefit them now and as they grow older. Try to work towards a future in which you can see that the different parent figures make your children’s lives richer and more secure. It really is the best possible outcome.
Take the first step… If you are still in a stage where relations between you and your ex are complicated, don’t overburden yourself emotionally, but try to just take the first step towards normalising things between you, and then build on that in all the days to come.
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