You may have decided to end your marriage but, with a young family, you face years of co-parenting with your ex. There is such a thing as a good divorce and it’s possible to raise happy children with minimal emotional upset.
Here are some tips for a “good divorce”:
- Let the kids come first. You may disagree on a lot, but for a good divorce, try to agree that the children come first and the adults’ emotional baggage and private agendas come second.
- Use collaborative law. Utilize the new collaborative law and mediation processes. Your separation will be more amicable. Divorce can be expensive and the legal bills really hurt the economic backbone of a family. Your children will ultimately pay the price.
- Get counseling. Even the best, conflict-free divorces benefit from having a professional help family members transition out of the nuclear family and into their new arrangements. Grieving the life you had and working to create a new vision of the future will help everyone land more gently.
- Act happy (even if you have to fake it). The most stressful problem for children is seeing their parents in conflict and feeling split loyalties. Kids love both their moms and dads, so if they see divisiveness, they don’t know where to place their affections. If they love Mom, it’s an act of going against Dad and vice versa. This is the hardest emotional bind for a child. Instead, show your children you both get along (or at least don’t hate one another). That means no bad-mouthing the other parent, no dirty looks, or asking the child to deliver snarky messages or spy on the other.
- Agree to disagree. I promise you, it’s the actual fighting and conflict about minutiae (like how to handle homework, discipline differences, bedtimes, what the kids eat etc.) that hurts kids, not the staying up late, watching Call of Duty, and skipping assignments. Let the other parent do things their own way and support the idea that kids can handle two houses having two different styles and rules.
- Decide what’s worth fighting for. If you agree you should not ‘sweat the small stuff’, but you wonder what is ‘small’, let me share what courts agree you should speak up about:
- Safety – Abuse or neglect
- Travel – Extensively being away, distant, remote or unreachable
- Health – Refusing chemotherapy, blood transfusions, vaccinations, etc.
- Education – Sending them away to boarding school/military school or other non-main stream settings
- Religion – Excessive pressure or conversion to a known religious cult or extremist group.
Are you getting a sense of the scale now? So, fighting about trans fats in fast food isn’t the way to go for a good divorce. You’ll probably do more psychological damage to your kids watching you bicker over it. Here are some books about divorce for kids to help them along.