Show your kids love, not war.
From the moment your kids are born, your goals as a parent are hopefully to ensure your kids' safety and well-being while cultivating and encouraging their personal growth, development, and happiness.
Children don’t have the privilege of choosing their family, so you should feel an obligation NOT to transfer the failures of your marriage onto your kids. Making the decision to end a marriage through divorce is not a one-time event that's signed, sealed, and delivered by a court document – it’s a long, hard and often heartbreaking process.
Your children's perception of your divorce will largely impact the way they cope with the loss of your relationship and will affect their own ability to have successful and sustainable relationships. Your children’s needs must be placed before the needs of yourself if you want to ensure a smooth transition from the two-parent household existence that they’ve known their whole lives.
When you and your ex can't make the needs of your kids a priority by collaboratively and peacefully making decisions about their welfare, the children are at an increased risk for developing problems academically, behaviorally, and socially.
It's critical that children understand that the demise of your relationship with your spouse is not their fault. You can do this by carefully and thoughtfully interacting in a healthy manner throughout the course of your divorce.
In counseling, I often have to remind couples that you once loved each other – ending your relationship doesn't mean you have to hate each other. You can make a conscious choices throughout your divorce to act civilly toward one another, ultimately changing way your family will react and function after everything is finalized.
Here are 6 reasons why learning to love your ex will keep your kids happy in the long run:
1. Your kids are learning to respect both themselves and others equally.
When you end your marriage, maintaining a level of respect when communicating with your spouse teaches children that you don’t have to mistreat or be angry with someone JUST because you're no longer able to carry on your relationship.
2. You're creating a stronger foundation for your family.
Divorce does not have to mean that your family dissolves. It can simply mean that your family dynamics have transitioned and will assume a new form.
You can decide to spend holidays and significant events together as a family as you always have in lieu of assuming that traditions end with the signing of a divorce decree.
3. You are building up your kids' self esteem.
When children don't feel like they have to choose between two parents and can instead feel secure with both of your support as equal parents, their self-esteem is left unharmed.
4. You are teaching your kids to resolve conflicts peacefully.
When you show your kids that two people can decide that being married or in a relationship is no longer in their best interest without exhibiting unhealthy communication towards each other, you're teaching them that arguments don't always have to be bitter, and that there are better ways of solving your problems – no matter how big they may be.
5. You are showing them how to gracefully adapt to change.
Life doesn't always proceed as planned. When your kids observe you and your ex interacting in a manner that is civil and respectful, they learn that even when they encounter road blocks or detours in life, they can press forward and lead a life of happiness and success.
6. You're bettering their chances of finding the right person to love.
When your kids see you and your ex working together, even when you are no longer "together", they are more likely to learn how to effectively and peacefully solve their own future relationship problems.
When you decide to end your marriage, your whole family experiences a variety of abrupt changes which impact nearly every aspect of their lives. Often times, this makes most instances of divorce an extremely painful process.
When the needs of your children become your focus, however, you are able to maturely, amicably, and respectfully co-exist, ultimately increasing the likelihood that your kids will grow to be healthy adults that are able to engage in and maintain healthy relationships.
Being able to witness their divorcing parents exhibiting a semblance of love towards one another even in the midst of divorce will only make them stronger.
Dr. Adrienne Berry is a Licensed Professional Counselor and owner of ChangeMakers, LLC and A Change For ALL in Atlanta, Georgia.