People say, “Stay together for the kids and keep the family intact.” I disagree.
Often divorce is the compassionate thing to do for everyone. It was for my family. My former husband and I were opposite in our views on so many things. In the beginning of our relationship that was part of what drew us together. But as time passed those contrasting perspectives were what pulled us apart. And after 21 years of marriage, we divorced.
You see, I believe parents are the models for their kids. Our children learn about their world and how it works from us. When respectful loving adult relationships are shown to kids by how their parents treat each other, children feel safe and nurtured. When conflict exists between parents through those uncomfortable silences or angry conversations, children feel it and their sense of security is compromised. Yes, our kids may adjust as they mature into adulthood, but that adjustment often includes learning to live with stress and a misunderstanding of what healthy loving relationships look like.
It’s been more than eight years since my divorce and yes, there were some, ok a lot!, of difficult times. But our “two separate homes” family is doing very well. Really!!
Now I’m sharing 7 surprising lessons I’ve learned that helped me create a workable co-parenting relationship with my former spouse and guide our daughters through this transition. Most of all, these ideas have ushered in a more confident, happy and exciting new life for me!
1. Self-care is not selfish. In fact, it’s necessary.
The airlines got it right. Put your own oxygen mask on first, before you attempt to help those around you, especially your children! You will need all your strength to manage the twists and turns you will go through as you adjust after divorce. Your goal is to become a solid foundation for yourself and for your children. That goal can be achieved more quickly when you pay attention to your emotional triggers, recognizing how they control your actions and reactions. It’s important to take time to understand your sadness and begin to find ways to heal. It is necessary in the moving-forward process to acknowledge what makes you angry, so you can manage your anger before you do or say something that hurts your kids or causes more conflict with your former spouse. So spend the day at the spa, exercise to get those endorphins flowing. Make lots of time do whatever re-energizes you and have no guilt about taking care of yourself!
2. Take inventory of past events for Information, not Intimidation.
Learn from the past, don’t live there. Realize what didn’t work, make the effort to improve and move forward, not to attack or accuse. The goal is to make things better not more bitter. Include in your exploration of past events learning about The ACE study www.acestoohigh.com. The ACE study is the largest scientific studythat links 10 Adverse Childhood Experiences in the home to the risk of kids developing our nation’s leading health and social problems later on as adults. Divorce is on the list with other Adverse Childhood Experiences like recurring physical and emotional abuse, growing up with sexual abuse or a family member in jail. I learned the hard way that, as a divorced parent, I often modeled behavior that did not teach our children how to handle life’s ups and downs – to be resilient. Understanding the importance of ACE’s helped me change my behavior and model resilience by focusing on solutions instead of problems. It not only created a more peaceful home life for me and our daughters, but the co-parenting relationship got better too.
3. Focus on raising well adjusted, confident, self responsible and happy kids.
Start with living in ways that model for your children how to move past the angry, stuck places to live a different life after divorce. Adopt a positive view of yourself, your kids and your former spouse. Learn to communicate your needs and desires clearly, and teach your children to do the same. Take time to role play with them so they discover different ways to manage their anger and sadness. Shift their focus from problems to solutions. Hug them often and love them unconditionally. For more suggestions, refer to my book Children and Divorce: Parenting Tips to Help Your Family Cope and Adjust at www.thewholefamilycoaching.com. I am especially proud about this book because my daughters are contributors, having written the foreword and created the art work. They are now on their way to becoming well adjusted, confident, self-responsible and happy young adults.
4. Decide to be a cooperative co-parent.
It really is less stressful when you can work together with your former spouse for the good of your children. What a concept! After all, both of you are your children’s “forever parents.” At every age, your kids need to be free to love both of you. One way I achieved a cooperative co-parenting perspective was to see my kids’ dad through their eyes – that unconditional loving place they have for him - and not from the adult relationship he and I were involved in with each other.
5. Choose hope-filled words that motivate you and your children to move forward.
What you think to yourself and what you say out loud matters. Use phrases like, “our kids”, “our family is in transition” and “both of us are doing what we think is best for our children”. Hope-filled words motivate feelings and actions in positive directions.
6. Time alone does not heal.
I expected all to be well 3 or 4 years after the divorce papers were signed. Boy did I get a rude awakening!Time by itself may change a few things. Butthe peace you seek comes more quickly when you understand that what you do with time is what matters. It heals your heart, getting you closer to your future happiness. A truly productive and meaningful life after divorce, for everyone, happens when you spend your time focused on actions that are directed toward positive results.
7. Above all else, practice No Judgment. Just Love.®
Imagine your world after divorce filled with friends and family members who see you beyond their first impression and treat you with respect and allowance for whatever mood you happen to be in at any given time. This is my global message of No Judgment. Just Love.® Of courseI know it’s normal to judge. It may even be helpful to judge. Judgments are not the problem. The problems are what you do after the judgment, what thoughts you hold and what you let fly out of your mouth that keeps the family stuck on the negative side of divorce. This is an important concept to understand and adopt, because everyone moves through the pain of divorce in different ways and at different times, including kids. Practicing No Judgment. Just Love.® makes it easier to have compassion for everyone. It releases you from thinking you have to control the behavior of your kids or former spouse. When you practice peace and love…peace and love will flow to you. In the end, the only person’s behavior you have complete control over is yours. And that is an empowering position to be in!
To your parenting success and your child’s happiness!
ShaRon Rea, Family Relationships Life Coach, Author and Founder of The Whole Family Coaching
is a compassionate woman with a strong business background that encompasses more than 30 years’ experience in the fields of communication, education, childcare, and public service.
ShaRon is an expert in parenting solutions for parents raising teens, co-parenting after divorce, single fathers and every caregiver committed to raising happy, well-adjusted children of any age.
Her personal story includes navigating her own divorce (after 21 years of marriage) creating an effective co-parenting relationship with her former spouse and helping their children adjust to the new family structure in Scottsdale, Arizona.
In ShaRon’s words,
No Judgement. Just Love.®
It’s always been my personal philosophy in life and in my business.
It’s truthfully the best way for any two people in disagreement to be able to understand and “hear” each other so that they can work together to both get what they want
without compromising on who they are in the process.”~ ShaRon Rea
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The Whole Family Coaching