By Tracy Fischer
Our children are an integral part of our lives and keeping them safe and feeling secure is what parenting is all about. Parenting together after divorce presents new challenges to an already difficult process, but navigating painful emotions to maintain a united front is an essential part of the job. The bottom line is, kids feel healthiest when their parents get along.
Breaking the News
Depending on age, discuss the process openly in your family. If possible, include both parents in the discussion. Emphasize that while the family is changing, it is not ending. Divorce means that a marriage is over, it does not mean that a parent’s relationship to his or her child is over. Your children should feel secure that both their parents love them and neither parent will leave their lives. Make sure they understand that the divorce is not their fault, that there is nothing that they can or should do to change things. If possible, tell your children what decisions have been made, where they will live and that they will still be spending time with both parents. Remember to answer their questions with as much care and honesty as possible. They will probably have quite a few questions, and answering them, repeatedly if necessary, will help them regain the sense of security that they’ve lost.
Dealing With Your Own Hurt
Painful feelings are a natural part of the divorce process. When co-parenting, however, those emotions must take a back seat. Remember to make the happiness and security of the children your shared priority. When feelings of pain and anger arise, take them into a separate space. Try to make sure those feelings don’t leak out into interactions with your children. Find a therapist or a close friend to lean on instead. Be aware of your body language as well. Make a conscious effort to take deep breaths and relax your shoulders. If you’re feeling momentarily tense, smile. It’s remarkable how some emotions can work from the outside-in. Divorce mediation or counseling can allow divorcing parents the opportunity to sort through and communicate some of those unpleasant feeling. Sometimes, just the opportunity to express them and know that they have been heard an acknowledged by the other parent may be a start to letting them go.