It's not about you. It's about your kids.
When couples marry or profess their love to each other, their future is full of promise and hope. But sadly, neither hope nor promise can etch a path into stone. Instead, the road ahead is uncharted and unwritten.
Although no one walks into a commitment thinking they will divorce or separate — with two kids and a dog later — it happens. And when it does, things become complicated.
The once in love and inseparable couple find themselves arguing over a plethora of issues. Some of these matters are big, some are small, but in nearly all cases it's their children that are in the middle.
What happens to these children after their parents go separate ways? Co-parenting is typically the result, making it impossible to forever cut ties with an ex. The inability to cut ties aren't due to shared parenting, but instead were established the moment any children were born. It's often not until a breakup that many ex-couples realize how strong those invisible knots are.
Any relationship that ends is going to be littered with hurt feelings and resentment. But despite this difficulty, many parents are able to remain civilized with one another. Some maintain this amicable relationship out of respect for one another, but most do it because they each have a combined love for their children.
Unfortunately, many ex-couples don't maintain a healthy rapport with one another. Due to these feelings of hatred, anger or resentment, any hope for a peaceful relationship is lost. Many allow these negative feelings to override any desire to foster civility. In these cases everyone suffers, especially the children.
Here are eight reasons remaining civil with an ex is incredibly important for the children:
1. A child deserves an equal relationship with both of their parents.
Unless a parent is abusive, in jail, a drug addict, or has some other type of serious problem, children should be allowed to view both their mother and father as their hero. Time and time again I've watched one parent belittle the other in front of their child. This can weaken or destroy an image that took years of love and bonding to create (which is, sadly, often the motivation).
No matter what one parent may think of the other, and no matter what mistakes have been made, children shouldn't be used as a chest piece to make the other parent suffer. The only one who suffers is the children. Worse, later on in life they may resent YOU for your lies, embellishments or using them as a bargaining chip.
2. Children need the support of both parents to do well in school.
Too often parents refuse to come to conferences or school functions if the other parent will be present. After a relationship ends, there will be few times when working together as a team will be necessary, and a child's education is one of those times.
Communication between the teacher and both parents of a student is essential for a child's emotional and social success. Kids must see that their parents are united in their education and upbringing, and that both parents have high expectations for good grades and pleasant behaviors.
3. Your child may go down the same road and get divorced.
Although you hope and dream that your child will one day find a partner and a marriage to last forever, they too may end up in the same predicament. Do you want your grandchildren to have a childhood free of drama and hatred? Absolutely. Yet, if you model that drama and hatred in front of your child, this will likely be the behavior your child will one day display.
4. Your negativity makes you impossible to be around.
Being angry at someone for years is exhausting. Constant negative thoughts will turn you into a constantly negative person. No one wants to be around someone who holds onto resentment. Children want their parents to be upbeat, full of energy, and they especially want their parents to be happy.
By letting go of grudges, you can let go of anger; by letting go of anger, you can be a more positive person to be around. You'll be able to appreciate the small moments and see things through a different lens. Your family will be stronger in the end.
5. Harboring ulterior motives and a desire to retaliate creates an inability to think clearly.
Are you prohibiting your child to go to Europe with their father because you don't think it's safe, or is it because you don't want their dad to be the one to give that once in a lifetime vacation?
Thoughtful and sound decision making is something all parents must do multiple times a day. The decisions directly affect the child. Decisions shouldn't be based on feelings about an ex, but about what's best for the child.
6. Your child will eventually think they're part of the problem.
Whatever bad blood exists between a former couple, children should never be invited into a conversation about it. Furthermore, saying things like, "Anytime I ask to switch nights your father says no, but when he wants me to switch he expects me to jump right on board."
Kids can easily place blame on themselves for things that were never their fault to begin with. If your child is made to feel part of the problem, they will carry a guilt that no child should.
7. Your pettiness shouldn't come between your child's important life events.
Do you want a dark cloud looming around at your son's high school graduation or your daughter's wedding? Of course not. It's unfair for a child to have bitterness and tension during life's greatest moments. If you remain civil from the start, those opportunities can be enjoyed instead of avoided.
8. You'll want to look back and know you did the best you could.
You can't put a price tag on a clear conscious. If your ex really is a bad person it won't take you to prove it; the truth will eventually rear its ugly head. It's far more powerful for a child to come to that understanding on their own. If you're the one delivering the message, they may resent you for it later.
Kids remember for years, if not a lifetime, when punches are thrown to a person they love, from a person they love. When your children move out, you will want the satisfaction of knowing you did the best you could and that you always put your children first.
Practicing humility, patience, tolerance and acceptance are all things that may be hard to do after a divorce.
Even so, those qualities are necessary to keep our precious children from becoming confused, biased or nasty themselves. Life is simply way too short and important for that.