Divorces are like earthquakes. They just happen, almost unannounced and cause havoc in our lives. Just like with any natural disaster, they have their direct casualties which are the ex-spouses and the
collateral damage, which are in most cases the children. Being both the casualty, and oftentimes the
cause in such a process (there are no innocents) I have made many mistakes and had some success in
helping my child overcome the difficulties of parents living separately. It’s human to make mistakes, but it is also human to learn on someone else’s and your own missteps. Here are some of the most valuable lessons I learned, while guiding my kid through this turbulent period.
How to Break the News?
Up until this moment everything was clear, we have already made a firm decision about the divorce, and agreed that it is the best path for both of us, and for our child who should not grow up in an unhappy marriage. But once we sat on the couch next to her, everything collapsed. I felt like a murder suspect in front of a jury. And then, I knew, I should have prepared better, for tears, for the tough question, for everything. The most important thing to know here, is that you should be empathic and honest, and speak clearly, but in a kid-friendly manner. All the kids need to know in moments like this is that both of you still love them.
Who’s to Blame?
Blaming the other spouse, even if he did make mistakes, can be the worst thing for kids. It is very difficult to restrain from the “good guy – bad guy” narrative, but for the sake of your kids, you should both rise above that. This rule should start from the moment of breaking the news, and throughout their entire childhood. Sure, it would be easier not to have to lie, if you could forgive each other.
Maintaining the Relationship with the Ex-Spouse
Divorce isn’t about picking sides, and no one has the right to force children to make that decision. They love and care for both of their parents equally. Even though it can be very painful, especially in the first couple of months, it is important to have a healthy relationship with the ex-spouse. This will also be of immense help when it comes to making the decision about custody. When we decided to file for divorce in California, we came to agreement that both of us will have legal custody, while I will have physical custody. Remember that, although it is important to be friendly, you shouldn’t go too far, because a child can see that as possible reconciliation.
Expressing Thoughts and Feelings
No matter how old your kid is he/she surely has an opinion about the current situation and you should allow and encourage him/her to say it out loud. I also tried to share my feelings, in a most kid-friendly way possible, and explain my reasoning. It is very important to accentuate often that the divorce has nothing to do with the kid, and that you love him/her immensely.
Routine and Stability
It is important to keep some sense of routine. A child can’t just stop seeing one parent all of the sudden. But you shouldn’t escape of establishing some new routines. Pizza night in the middle of the week – why not? Board games with neighbors in Sunday? Everything fun and relaxing you can remember will help your kid to find some happiness in all that mess. It was an eye-opener when my kid asked me why I am always sad and nervous… The lesson? Do not change, lose confidence or despair. Be the mother/father you have always been.
It is the reality of being a parent – you put your kids first. During the divorce, we must be strong enough to make it easier for them, even though that makes it more difficult for us.
About the author
Marie Nieves is a lifestyle blogger who loves unusual trips, gadgets and creative ideas. She likes to read poetry and prose and to surf the Internet. Her favorite writer is Tracy Chevalier and she always carries one of her books in her bag. She is an avid lover of photography who loves to talk about her experiences.