I hope I’ve helped you understand that if the time comes to separate, a divorce can be achieved in a peaceful way.
The truth is, it’s not always possible for two people to be mature. There is always the chance that one half of a couple might act a fool, bail on his or her spouse and children, or simply be blind to what they are doing.
Good news is that it only takes one parent acting like a responsible adult to ensure a child moves through divorce with as little damage as possible. Just one.
Let that one be you by following this advice:
- Never give details. Period. Even if they ask. A simple Mama and Daddy still love you very much but can’t get along under the same roof will suffice, I promise you. (Obviously, this is only the case if your child is still seeing both of you. If one parent is completely out of the picture, then probably a little more—but not too much—explanation would be due.) More will confuse them, and I think less will too. When they are adults and begin to understand marriage and all it entails, more can be said.
- Never use your child as an information-giver. We have all modes of communication now: text, phone, email, social media. There is absolutely zero reason that your child needs to tell the other parent something that you should be communicating. Find the means of communication that works for the both of you and talk like two adult co-parents should.
- Never fuss at your child about child support. While I feel like this should be a no-brainer, it was said to me a few times (to be clear, I was a teenager and could semi-handle it, but still), and it hurts. Your child should never hear the phrases, We would have more money if… or If your Mom/Dad loved you they would pay this… or even I can’t buy you this because… (not to say you have to buy whatever it is they want; just don’t use not having child support as a reason). Because they will hear two things: Money equals love and I’m not loved, and I’m to blame for my family’s financial problems.
- Never disparage your ex to your child. Listen, I understand how difficult this is. I’m still married, and there are times I’ve had to bite my tongue to keep from saying something ugly about Clayford to one of my children. (And also times I haven’t been able to bite it, so trust me, pot/kettle, I get it.) It is HARD to keep your mouth shut. But I would say it is even more important once you are divorced. Your child is sorting out all kinds of emotions in their tiny minds. To bombard them with negative thoughts about one of their parents is wrong. It doesn’t matter what you think they should be able to see with their own eyes. As I stated before, the self-preservation inside them will keep them from processing negative, and that’s a good thing, as it keeps their little hearts intact. Why would you want to destroy that?
- Never tell your child that your marriage suffered because of them. (Even though it’s true.) I read an article the other day that said if you want to save your marriage then don’t have kids. This couldn’t be more true, especially today. Kids are marriage DESTROYERS. But it’s our own fault. We’ve become a child-centric culture that worships at the throne of all things kid. We worship their clothing, their activities, their social lives. We are obsessed with youth and despise age. And we often put our children first to the detriment of our spouse. Don’t blame your child for that. It’s on you, Mom and Dad. (Need to interrupt here to say: It is VITALLY important that once you are divorced and begin to date again and even remarry your children come first. Sorry. It is what it is.)
- NEVER—NEVER EVER EVER—tell your child your ex doesn’t love them. Oh my goodness, does this seem like it would never possibly be said by a parent to a child. But believe me, it is said more than you could imagine. If your father loved us, he would be paying more child support. If your mother loved you, she wouldn’t have cheated on me with her boss. If your father loved you, he wouldn’t date that Becky witch. If your mother loved you, she would keep Mark away. I could go on and on and on. Do NOT do this to your child! Your child is dealing with the literal death of the only family they have ever known. They DO NOT NEED your input on who loves them and who doesn’t.
How about this instead? Mourn the loss. Absolutely. Be ticked if it wasn’t your idea. Apologize if it was. Then both of you put on your big boy and big girl britches, deal with the fact that your marriage is over, and make peace WITHOUT dragging your children into the middle of it.
This is entirely possible. It takes resolve, forgiveness and a whole lot of maturity, but it is possible.
You may never be friends with your ex. But you can be a good co-parent if your focus is on your child and not the marriage.
And this is probably the most important piece of advice I could leave you with: Never make your child feel sorry for being born.
You chose to get married. You chose to bring life into this world. Don’t place on their shoulders what was your decision.
I won’t say I hope you’ll stay married. I’ve seen enough miserable marriages to know that some need to be put away instead of repaired.
But I hope you’ll think really long and hard about your children. I hope you’ll make peace with each other in whatever way possible.
All children deserve a good childhood. They deserve to maintain their innocence as long as possible, even as teenagers, even as young adults.
Mom and Dad, your job is to make sure this happens.
It’s the very definition of parenting.