Have kids? Getting a divorce? Listen up!
I am a child of divorce.
My parents split up when I was 10 years old and I never saw it coming.
We left for a drive with our mother, our clothes and belongings unknowingly stowed in the trunk.
We never came back.
After that, my parents were very careful not fight in front of us. Except for that one time. That one time that I still think about and want to cry.
The scared and confused feelings I had inside. Torn, not knowing who I wanted to be right or wrong, to win or lose.
Now, imagine your child going through these feelings every time you and your estranged spouse cross paths.
I have a friend who is going through a divorce. He was describing the horrible exchanges he and is ex wife would perform in front of their children. Name calling, crying, anger.
I was surprised they would go on like this in front of their kids and then I realized: Neither he nor his ex had come from broken homes themselves.
They had no idea what they were doing to their kids.
I told him how it was for me. How it still hurt. How I still thought about those angry moments. How scared, unprotected, unsure, and vulnerable I felt.
He broke down in front of me.
I tried to give him some suggestions for dealing with his ex and all the horrible gut wrenching feelings he was having himself.
For the sake of his boys I hope he follows them...
Tips For Not Scarring Your Children For Life...
1. DO NOT FIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR KIDS. EVER.
2. If you have things to say and you do not have the opportunity to do it in person then:
a. Write a letter
b. Write an email
c. Make a phone call
3. Pretend that your children are now a business and your ex is a silent partner that you cannot get rid of, but must work cooperatively with to maintain the successful future of this venture. IT CANNOT FAIL.
4. Remember that your children did not ask for this. They have no choice, no other safe places to go. You are their advocate. You are their protector. Suck it up and be a grown up.
5. If you can't suck it up and act like a mature grown up in front of your kids when you are with your ex, then seek professional help. If you have never been in this situation yourself, you have no idea what damage you are doing. PLEASE GET HELP.
6. Going through a divorce is awful. But, you still need to COMMUNICATE with your ex. If you have kids, you are going to be attached to this person for the rest of your life.
7. Modeling constructive conflict resolution can be a powerful and valuable experience for your children (BTW Calling your husband/wife a PRICK/BITCH and throwing his/her car keys in his/her face is not constructive). If you can deal with the thorny issues in front of the kids in a respectufl manner, than please by all means do so.
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By Lisa Owen