Family, Heartbreak

Your Divorce Isn't Screwing Up Your Kids, You Are

I often hear parents blame their children's adjustment issues on "the divorce." Case in point was one author's response to the #NotBroken campaign from Honey Maid. Unfortunately, that is the easy answer in a very complex situation. I see divorcing couples involving the children inappropriately in their conflict or giving the kids too much information on the demise of the marriage. Dr. Michele Borba teamed up with Honey Maid and I was lucky enough to interview her. Speaking with another parenting expert on helping children cope with divorce brought several valuable take-aways—focus on the children; leave your baggage at the door; create new traditions

When I guide my parent clients through the process of divorce, I remind them, "Your children take their cue from you!" If you can manage yourself, your children will be fine. Alternatively, if you are emotionally disconnected, needy or erratic and there isn't predictability and structure in your home, then your children cannot develop the resilience they need to adapt to a changing family system.

If you are a parent who is divorcing, keep these three key concepts in mind.

1. It's actually NOT about you.

The marriage was about you, your family and your life with your partner. Now that the marriage is dissolved, it's about the children. Find ways to manage your feelings of hurt, anger and abandonment appropriately. Seek help, living in a state of anger only makes things more uncomfortable for everyone. 

2. Parenting through divorce is a marathon, not a sprint.

Building new traditions and new family relationships takes time. While it isn't an overnight process, the key is keeping the game plan in mind. Know what values you want to instill in your children and give it a couple years to balance out. Think about when they are adults. Will you be able to turn to them and say, "We did the best we knew how, for you."

3. Please remember, intact families "screw up" children, too! 

Frequently, I see parents gain personal satisfaction in the form of righteous indignation when the children express concerns over divorce and blending families. Families that aren't divorced also experience conflict, disconnection and communication issues. Divorce seems to be the "get out of jail free" card for some parents—they can blame difficulties on one major life change. However, children in divorced families can be just as happy as those in intact families. They just need to be given the opportunity to grieve, adapt and then be allowed to thrive.

Divorce is difficult, but it doesn't have to keep hurting everyone. By moving forward in a healthy, healing way, your kids can adjust and bounce back. Let the legacy of your family be happiness, not brokenness. If you are having trouble doing that on your own, then seek help from a family therapist or divorce coach