A Guest post from LawgOnline-
You may recall an article I wrote earlier about my perspective of divorce, having grown up and going through not one, but two divorces over my life. The first time was when my biological mother and father got a divorce when I was three, and the next was when I was 27 and watched my mother and step-father get divorced. Each divorce was messy in their own way, but each one had a similar circumstance: minor children were involved. Looking back, here’s a list of things that I can recommend that would have made the transitions and raising children in a divorced family easier:
- Never Make Your Children the Middle-Man: Don’t ask your children to deliver a message for you to your ex-spouse. Don’t ask them to deliver money for you, or berate them and interrogate about what happens over at the other parent’s house. Divorce is stressful enough for children, and making them deliver messages to your ex, which will most likely be bad news in some way or other, is bound to get a negative response from the other parent. I remember throwing my hands in the air one day and telling my mother, “No, don’t put me in the middle! If you want to tell Dad something, YOU tell him!” Children are not messenger pigeons, so don’t treat them that way. Learn early that while it will be difficult, you need to have an open dialogue with your ex. You chose to have children together, you can both be adults and talk to each other when it involves those children.
- Love Your Children More Than You Hate Your Ex: This is a difficult one because it’s an easy trap to fall into. You’re going to be upset after your divorce. It’s more than likely that your divorce is not going to be an amicable split, and you may want to lash out and speak before you think when it comes to your ex-spouse. When your children are around, though, assess the situation. Children are sponges, and they hear everything (trust me, I have two of my own and they have heard me mutter the occasional bad word from across the house). You have to love your children more than you hate your ex, and understand that sometimes, you just need to keep your mouth closed when you hear something like your ex buying a new car or taking another vacation, meanwhile telling you that they can’t help with school clothes this year because they’re tight on cash. If it’s affecting your parenting, you can handle that in court, but don’t tell your children how much you hate their other parent because you’re frustrated. Building animosity in them towards the other parent is detrimental to their health, and sometimes loving your kids is just more important than hating your ex.
- Pick Your Battles: It’s very likely that your spouse is going to do things that you don’t agree with. Maybe they took your child to McDonald’s once or twice when you’re trying to maintain a healthier household, or they went and saw a movie with your child that you’ve been waiting to take them to for months. While it’s tough, it’s not world-ending. If you’re nitpicking at every little thing your ex does, you won’t be taken seriously when something major comes up, like a decision regarding your children’s education, religious choices, or well-being comes up. Let go of the little things so that you have more clout with the big things.
- Give the Benefit of the Doubt: This compounds on the last point. It’s human nature to jump to negative conclusions when we hear about a conflict or problem. Sometimes your child will tell you about their time with your spouse that you may interpret differently than what they mean. For instance, your child may tell you about how the other parent disciplined them for talking back to them. Children love to exaggerate, and you can assume that half of what you’re hearing may be exaggerated. Instead of calling your ex and starting with, “How could you do that!” try a more positive approach of “Hey, I’m not entirely sure what happened the other day, but Johnny mentioned that you spanked him pretty hard for disagreeing with you about eating broccoli. I just wanted to know what the actual story is so I can explain to him that Mom and Dad agree about how and why we discipline.” This shows that you’re willing to work with your ex-spouse on the raising of your children and that even if you’re divorced, you are still a team when it comes to your children.
- Speak in Person, Not in Email (or Text): I really cannot stress this one enough. Text-based communication is an awful way of communicating in stressful situations or on delicate subjects. No amount of emoji’s or LOL’s is going to guarantee your ex-spouse reads the message the way you intended it. More often than not, your ex will read it in the tone that they think you wrote it in, and I can promise you, it will probably not be the tone you intended. If you have something important to say, either do it in person or over the phone. Vocal inflection and body language can go a huge way, and remember, 90% of communication is body language. Emails and texts remove all of that and can cause conflict.
- TALK To The Other Parent About Major Decisions: Do you want to be the last one to know that your child got their first cell phone, their first job, dropped out of school, or gets a car? Absolutely not. Any major decision needs to be consulted with the other parent. Nobody is going to care where you took your child to dinner, but finding out that your spouse lets your child get a tattoo at 17 is going to be more of a shock. Your kids need you until they’re 18 to make the big decisions, so they’re going to ask the parent they think is more likely to say yes. Don’t agree or disagree until you’ve had a chance to make sure the other parent is on board with that decision, and if the two of you disagree on what should be done (like with the tattoo), then maybe it should wait until the child turns 18 and can make their own decisions. There will be exceptions to this rule, but believe me, they’re few and far between.