What is a Child-Centered Divorce – and how is that different from more typical divorces?
Unfortunately, too many parents approach divorce as adversaries. When child custody becomes a battle, everyone loses. Parents are pitted against each other and innocent children inevitably pay the price.
When custodial decisions move into contention, creating a scenario where lawyers, legislation and courts determine the direction of your children’s future, you not only lose power in your life, you lose harmony within your already fragile family structure.
When you create a Child-Centered Divorce, your children win – on every level because you put their real needs first and foremost. Parents who make a concerted effort to sit down with each other and discuss the future wellbeing of their kids together, keep their perspective where it really belongs – on the children.
Most parents say they care about the wellbeing of their children, yet the outcome of their divorces doesn’t reflect this. What can parents do right from the start to ensure a better future for their children?
To really protect your children from the negative consequences of divorce parents need to let go of their anger, resentment, hurt and other negative emotions directed toward their Ex. Then they must take into account and ask themselves some very serious questions:
- What will our children say to us when they are grown adults about the way we handled our divorce?
- What’s best for our children today, tomorrow and in the years to come?
- How can we minimize the physical, emotional and spiritual damage inflicted upon our children as a result of our pending divorce?
- How can we best support our children through this difficult time?
- How can we show our love and compassion for them as they move through challenges they did not ask for — or create?
- What can we do to boost their sense of security, self-esteem and wellbeing during the transitions ahead?
- Who can provide the least traumatic home environment for the children – and for what percent of each day, week, month and year?
- How can each of us best contribute our assets – physical, emotional and spiritual – to create harmony, good will and peace within the family structure?
- How will our children look back at this divorce a year, five years, ten years and more from now? Will they understand?
- How can we make life better for our children after the divorce than it was before?
The answers to these questions are not simple, nor are they black and white. They require honest communication between two mature adults who have their children’s best interest at heart. And yes, it may likely take more than the two of you to come to resolution on all the child-custody details. That’s where you can enlist the aid of professionals – divorce mediators, therapists, coaches and clergy. These experienced and knowledgeable experts will approach your divorce from a child-focused perspective. They have the tools and insight to help you reach agreement on issues that will affect the total wellbeing of your children in the least-divisive manner.
What surprises divorced parents most in adjusting to life after divorce?
Some parents think once they are divorced and most of the decisions have been made, the worst is behind them. Unfortunately, parenting after divorce is a week-by-week experience. Your success depends on the decisions you make, your attitude toward your situation and your compassion for your innocent children.
You may have heard it all before, but smart co-parents quiz themselves regularly to see if they are not falling into some of the traps of destructive post-divorce parenting. If you find yourself making some of the common mistakes, it’s never too late to make amends. You may have to alter decisions, change some behaviors, give yourself an attitude adjustment and even apologize to your children – or to their other parent!
Keep in mind, we all make mistakes that we regret. It’s part of the learning process – especially when we’re co-parents. It’s far better to set the course straight today than to reap the consequences years from now when your adult children ask: Mom (or Dad), what were you thinking?
What are some of the biggest mistakes divorced co-parents make?
Professionals all agree these are some of the most emotionally damaging mistakes for children that parents make when coping with divorce or separation:
- Fighting around your children – even on the phone or in another room if they can hear you. It does more damage than you can imagine!
- Asking your children to bear the weight of making decisions or choosing sides. It fills them with guilt, hurt, anxiety and confusion. Talk to them first and then make decisions for them so they don’t feel responsible.
- Failing to remind your children that none of this is in any way their fault. Kids tend to blame themselves for your problems unless you tell them differently.
- Forgetting to emphasize that Mom and Dad will always be their Mom and Dad and always continue to love them — even after the divorce! Fear of losing Mom or Dad is an enormous emotional burden.
- Confiding adult details to children in order to attract their allegiance, sympathy or emotional support. Save that for adult friends and therapists.
- Disparaging, putting down or in any way disrespecting their other parent — regardless how justified or tempting — because it creates confusion, guilt, hurt, insecurity and low self-esteem in your children.
- Alienating or keeping your children from having an ongoing loving relationship with their other parent (for your own selfish reasons!). Often they’ll resent you for this when they are grown!
- Asking your children to spy, act as messengers between both parents or provide inappropriate details about the other parent’s home life. Let them enjoy their childhood without adult responsibilities on their shoulders!
- Lying to your children in order to manipulate their attention or sympathy. This is selfish and hurtful. They’ll resent you for it when they’re adults!
- Getting back at your ex by making decisions aimed at hurting them – even though your children will pay the emotional price (such as moving a great distance away, not inviting your ex to a graduation or other important occasion, punishing them for financial problems by limiting visitation, etc.)
All of these behaviors are bound to backfire on you. If not immediately, then down the line as your children grow and understand more about the world. A good question to keep in mind when making all decisions about your children is: What will my kids say to me about how I handled the divorce when they are adults?
What advice do you have for parents to protect their children during and after their divorce?
You and your children can survive — and even thrive after divorce. Think before you leap and give your children the best possible opportunity to face the changes ahead by providing them with security, compassion and love.
Ask yourself “Do I love my kids more than I might dislike or hate my Ex?” That will keep you on track to making wiser decisions in the best interest of your children.
How can we learn more about you and the Child-Centered Divorce Network?
At our website you’ll find a free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting as well as Coaching services, helpful articles, interviews, programs, and many other valuable resources for parents. Visit us at www.ChildCenteredDivorce.com.