Most of us will agree that divorce is by far one of the most difficult experiences to go through in life. I bear witness to the upheaval that divorce brings on a daily basis. And I must say, “it ain’t always pretty.” As couples traverse through their divorce, they quickly discover that creating and maintaining some form of a healthy and positive relationship poses several challenges. The task of communicating with their ex is often layered with nuances they neither expected nor anticipated.
Yet, despite these challenges coupled with the belief held by many that this type of relationship between exes doesn’t exist, there are many parents who are able to do just that – get along and communicate – possibly better divorced than married – and put their differences aside for their children. They recognize that although they don’t always get it right, overall it’s good enough and well, that is good enough.
How can you do this?
- Lead by example. Don’t say derogatory things about your ex in front of your children. Remember, your child/children is a composite of both you and your ex. Denouncing them means you are also putting your child down and thinking negatively about them. Remember, there was a time when your ex-spouse was one of your favorite people. Try to remember that when you are overrun with emotions but still want to lead by example. Your children need to see and feel that although you both are no longer married, you still care about one another. It makes children feel safe – and they NEED to feel safe in their new world.
- Focus on yourself. Instead of putting your energy towards your ex and all the things you cannot stand, use that energy towards something positive – yourself and your kids! This will prevent you from using negative energy that could be used otherwise. This will put you in a better place mentally and emotionally and it will show in your exchanges with him or her.
- Demonstrate kindness. Yes, this is very difficult, but it is hugely important. You must show your children that, although you are no longer a family like you once were, you are still family – just a different one.
- Help your children through their journey. Your journey through divorce is much different than what your child is experiencing. Both parents can help their children go through their journey by understanding that they are developmentally in a different place than you. Ask them how they are feeling and what they are thinking. Ask them what doesn’t make sense and what would make more sense for them. Ask them what they need from you to help them. You might be surprised by their answers. Mind reading never works.
- Work your ‘stuff’ out. Your children are not part of this equation. Despite their age and how mature they appear to be, they are not. They do not understand what their parents are going through – nor should they. Find a time and place to meet with your ex and communicate what the problems are when the children are not around. Seek out support that will help you work through your own issues.
- Forgive yourself – and your spouse. This is difficult for most people to do, but vital to your growth and very empowering. Forgiveness is not condoning. Learn to let go of negative feelings – which helps strengthen your resolve to get back on your feet – and embrace the positive emotions. The guilt, shame, hate, and bitterness are not healthy behaviors to hang on to. Plus, wouldn’t you rather be traversing down a path of happiness and healing than bitterness and anger?
- Refrain from bringing up the past in the present. We are often tempted to bring up the past and note how this or that situation could have been different. But how is that allowing you to grow and move on? How is that helping you become centered in your new life? Discussing the past is helpful if you are using it to grow and change and not repeat your mistakes, and if helps you become a better version of yourself. Bringing up the past keeps you stuck and sends and creates more distance between the present and your new future.
Remember, your role as a parent places a pivotal role in what your children take away from the divorce. Learning to work towards improving your relationship with your ex has positive, long-term benefits that help the entire family!
This blog was originally posted on HuffingtonPost Divorce.