FYI, divorced parents.
I am a firm believer that divorce can be a really wonderful thing for children as they no longer have to put up with a relationship that's turning sour day in and day out. There is, however, a false assumption that children need to be with both parents, and I actually don’t think this is true either.
Who is to say that staying in an unhappy marriage is less harmful than taking action to end it?
In my view after having seen many cases, it’s not the event that's the issue — it's how the parents deal with the issue and how it’s presented to their children that make all the difference.
I have experienced close friends get divorced and do so in an amicable way that has really helped the children. I have also seen mothers let go of their anger towards the ex, to see the children grow up happy and healthy.
While working with women to help them get over their ex-relationships, I have seen 5 common divorced parents mistakes that make the entire ordeal tough on the children:
1. You don't put your kids first, even though you want to.
I have seen this so many times, where couples say they are putting their children first when, in reality, they are not. Instead, the parent is putting their needs first before the children, and they use their kids as pawns to get what they want.
In some cases, parents decide to bad mouth "the opposing party to the kids" or use their children as messengers to communicate with the other.
Instead, in order to put the children first, it's advisable to come to an agreement with the ex-spouse so that you're both working towards this outcome.
2. You don't help your children through difficult times.
I've seen parents not sit their children down (if they are of the age) to talk to them about what is going on and to discuss how the child is feeling.
Having honest conversations or dialogues with the kids is key because there may well be a lot of hidden upset that they are not expressing. It’s important for kids to express what they feel so that the parents can work with it, otherwise their confusion and anger may well be channeled in destructive ways.
Instead, it's important for parents to sit down with their kids to discuss what is going on for the children to feel that they are free to fully express what they need to and that they are being understood.
3. You don’t learn how to effectively communicate with your ex.
I often see divorced couples getting their buttons pushed left, right, and center, and then communicate in a way that reflects this. Reacting to one another and using the wrong sort of communication to do so will only spurn the wheels of resentment further.
This, of course, is felt and (in same cases) experienced by their children, which affects them negatively.
Instead, parents should understand how they communicate and what to change in their communication patterns so that they don’t have to wade through another fight. There are a million ways to say one thing, so it's about learning how best to say what you want to say in a way that will come in the guise of a response, not a reaction.
4. You hold onto anger and resentment.
I see this time and time again with my clients. They prefer being right as opposed to letting go of the anger and resentment.
This will not only hurt them but also adds fuel to the fire of the volatile environment that they have (consciously or unconsciously) decided to create for themselves and their children.
I have seen ex-couples spend 100,000s in court fees, not only costing them financially but also emotionally. I have also seen parents not allow the other parent not see their child (for no real VALID reason).
Instead, would it not make more sense to let the attrition go and make peace with what has been done? The event has happened, the past is the past. It's time to start with forgiving the other, but more importantly — forgiving self.
5. You don't seek help.
I often see divorced couples going through the motions of getting through the tough times, but do not take the pro-active stance of seeking help. Instead, they may confide in their children, which is not fair either. The responsibility of the parent is to look after them first and then their children.
Instead, ask for help, seek counseling if it's getting too much. You don’t have to do it on your own and there are many resources out there to aid you in healing the wounds.
In short, its important for divorced parents to make sure that they look after themselves first by letting go of the anger and blame (however hard) so that they can do their very best for their children.
Marina Pearson is a living coach, international speaker, and blogger. Download your free e-book "The 7.5 Mistakes That Women Make To Stop Them Moving On From Their Ex" on DivorceShift.