For Divorced Moms, It’s All About the Kids
If you're a mom who is going through a divorce, or have gone through one – you know the strain it can place on your children, and the guilt you feel when you see them hurting.
So, I've asked divorce experts to give moms proactive steps that they can take to minimize the strain on the children, alleviate the guilt and stop the hurting. Read their thoughtful tips below:
Tip #1: Boundaries, BOUNDARIES , and MORE BOUNDARIES
Now that you're a single Mom, there is a strong temptation to have one of your children be the "emotional stand-in", for your EX! This IS never good because it is AS damaging to them as it is to YOU. The child gains too much power and you give up too much of yours. Parents and children should never reverse roles — until you're 90 yrs old, incontinent, AND incompetent. More importantly, it is not the role of the child to fill the parents needs–no matter how needy and depleted you are — that's what girlfriends and cousins are for! Once a child — or children– are parentified, the child is put in the untenable position of meeting the parents needs. That's not the JOB of the kid or the PARENT! PARENTS meet kids needs! THERAPY ALERT: Wherever there is parentificaton, there is dysfunction!
Tip #2: Its About the Kids and Calmness
Divorce is a complicated and confusing transition in life that will test you to the limits. Focus on your love for your child(ren) and use it as your "mantra" when the going gets tough. Calm yourself by asking how do I best negotiate a particular step, make a certain decision, get rid of anger & angst, etc. in a way that will allow me to have the future I want, along with what will be best for my child(ren).
Even though your life will feel burdensome and continually busy, take just a little time for yourself to do something calming: yoga, meditation, long runs, a weekly hike into a beautiful piece of nature, etc. These kinds of activities will allow you to "actually be working," by helping you to get and stay in touch with your future vision, which will ultimately guide you through this difficult time in life.
Tip #3: Communicating with Your Ex About the Kids
Parents involved in high conflict custody battles often perpetuate the issues with lengthy and explosive email exchanges. Other parents fight through phone calls or text messaging. Often these conflicts absorb the parents' time and energy, as they prepare their missive emails or respond to allegations made against them. Regardless of the method of contact, these parents are not communicating. A few simple communication rules can curtail the ongoing battle of words between embattled parents:
- Limit Communication to Email
- Limit Emails to 4 Lines (no more than 20 words per line)
- Limit Emails to 1 Topic
Absent an emergency situation, in which parents must communicate by phone, these rules can quickly and efficiently reduce inflammatory exchanges and, if you're heading to court, identify for the judge that you aren't the one causing the conflicts. By restricting emails to four sentences, parents are limited in their ability to argue about the past and make personal attacks on one another. While this solution does not eliminate these types of communications all together, it can significantly reduce your stress.
Tip #4: Help Your Kids Survive and Thrive After Divorce
Children tend to blame themselves for divorce no matter how bad Mom and Dad's relationship has been, so you need to repeatedly remind them that it is in no way their fault. You can say something like: "Mom and Dad don't agree about certain issues which has created a lot of conflict. Even when some of the issues are about you, it does not mean you are to blame. While we may disagree about many topics, one thing's for certain. We both agree about our love for you!"
It's tempting to belittle, put down or in other ways disrespect your ex but regardless of how justified you may feel, it hurts your children in deep and long-lasting ways. Children innately love both their parents and feel a connection to them. When you insult their other parent it creates confusion, guilt, sadness, insecurity and low self-esteem in your children. Instead, remind them that, despite the divorce, Mom and Dad will always be their parents and will always love them. Then ask yourself this crucial question: "Do I love my children more than I hate my Ex?"
Tip #5: Your Adult Children are Still You Ex's Kids
Even though they're grown, your adult children still love both their parents and shouldn't be asked to take sides. Don't weep about how their father mistreated you, or how things went so terribly downhill recently. Above all, don't tell the kids that things were never good in the marriage but you waited to divorce till they were grown. This lays a heavy burden of guilt on them.
Remember, they still have two parents. They still love Dad. Unless he did something truly reprehensible, such as beating you, you don't need to give them all the details. Respect their love for their father.
A big thanks to these divorce experts for the tips they've shared!
If you're considering or proceeding through a divorce, information is key. Please take some time to educate yourself using the free information here at AlwaysNewYou.com:
- The Divorce and Remarriage Section: Great advice to guide you through your divorce, recovery and on to your next relationship (IF you want one!).
- Jeanie Rule's Divorce Advice for Moms: Our resident expert, Jeanie Rule, helps moms make great decisions about handling their divorce and raising wonderful children.