A friend of mine went hiking with a group for several days in Colorado. On the third day they had to cross a talus field, which is a collection of broken rocks and boulders, some the size of cars. The rocks and boulders are incredibly unstable. With every step, the rocks shifted and moved. Some started to slide and one rock, the size of a suitcase, came rolling down and barely missed my friend. The situation was stressful and tense. When they safely reached the other side they sat down to drink some water and all of their pent-up feelings came flowing out as each began to cry.
That’s the difficulty children of divorce experience. Their world can feel unstable, stressful, and tense. As a parent, you have the power to make some selfless decisions that will greatly relieve the stress and conflict your kids experience. Here are 3 things to focus on.
1. Time with both parents.
Unless there’s some reason your spouse represents a true threat to the health and safety of your children, you must do everything in your power to maximize their time together. The reality is your children love both of their parents.
- Don’t split hairs over the minutiae of the visitation schedule. Be mature and flexible, making it easy for the other parent to be as engaged and involved as possible.
- If your child is in the custody of the other parent, make phone calls, send emails, and reach out to remind him that you’re still there, and available to them at any time.
- We know that being a single mom can be exhausting, and there are times you are ready for your kids to go to their dad’s, but don’t let your children know. It could make them feel like a burden.
2. Communicate like a mature adult.
This means never speaking negatively about your ex-spouse in front of your child. If your ex is difficult, we understand that you will likely need to vent, but do that with a trusted friend or counselor. It’s too much heartache to saddle a child with. Additionally:
- Don’t use your child as a messenger. Communicate directly with your ex in polite and civil terms, and try to have most of those conversations out of the earshot of your kids. (Believe us, they will try to listen in!) Making your child the go-between is putting them in an awkward position and creates more confusion.
3. Compromise in all matters related to the children and bend over backward to get along with your ex.
A failure to do so will have one result: making your children feel like it’s their fault that yet another fight is occurring. They also suffer some practical consequences.
- If you share custody and your child has a school project due, it’s your responsibility to make sure the other parent is aware of due dates and what it is your child is expected to do? Playing the “Well, I did my part. Why didn’t you do yours?” game results in one thing: a bad grade for your child. So who did you hurt?
- If your kids play sports or participate in other activities, make sure your ex has all the schedules and encourage him to come. Withholding that information out of a secret desire to let him look like the jerk you think he is hurts your child and your child alone.
- Work hard to stay on the same page in terms of parenting goals. Communicate about the privileges and restrictions you think the children should have and why. As children get older, they will sense your weakness in this area and will use the lack of communication to manipulate both parents and avoid accountability. Again, they lose.
Many of these decisions boil down to one question. Is it more important to be right or to get even, or is it better to spare your children pain from divorce? Sure, there will be times that you feel like your ex is taking advantage of your diplomacy and good faith, but in the end, what matters more? We make all kinds of sacrifices for our children to protect their best interests, married or divorced. It’s the heart and soul of parenting, no matter the circumstances around you.
Tell us! What do you think kids of divorce need most from their parents?