Being child-centered as a parent going through divorce is dang near impossible if parents are still reeling from the emotions of the transition out of marriage. The healing that has to take place, grieving of the loss of the marriage, regardless of the difficulties that may have existed in the marriage, has its own mental and emotional process and space. Spouses have to work through the uncoupling in order to be able to have a co-parenting relationship that nourishes their children and them.
People are both spouses and parents. Two different roles that intersect for a while, until the roles morph into just co-parents. While this transition is taking place, how do parents focus on being child-centered? Here are some tips to get through the transition:
- Once the decision to divorce is made, emotional healing needs to take place. Putting together a good divorce support team of a therapist and a coach, or at least a therapist, is advisable. Addressing the grieving process is important so that the decisions that need to be made for the legal side of the divorce need to be made with a clear head and heart.
- If one spouse has gone through the grieving process before telling the other spouse of their decision to be divorced, the other spouse will need their own time to grieve.
- Telling children about the divorce should be discussed ahead of time, and done together in order to show a unified front. Ideally, it should be done once parents no longer blame each other for the dissolution so that the focus on their children’s welfare is front and center. Children can detect underlying animosity.
- This is what children need to hear from their parents in the reveal about the divorce: It’s not your fault; you did nothing to cause this; we will always be a family, but living in two houses; we both love you very much and that will never change; we both want the best for you and will do everything we can to ensure you have the best childhood possible.
- Never speak ill of the other parent, regardless of their behavior, even if the behavior is disruptive to the co-parenting schedule. Work with the other parent to change that behavior. Or, demonstrate to your children how to handle disruptive behavior in the most tolerant or creative manner possible.
- Choose a co-parenting schedule that works for the children and the parents. Remember, children are people, too, and need calm, consistency, and uninterrupted time with each parent.
- Be ready for different co-parenting styles. One parent cannot control the other parent when living in different houses. If one parent notices that the child is suffering in some way because of a parenting choice by the other parent, then conversation has to take place between parents to discuss the results of an on-going parenting style. Hopefully this can be done with a mediator if outside help is needed for the sake of the child. Bottom line, it’s all about the health and welfare of the child.
Divorce is hard, but co-parenting is harder if the happiness and well-being of the children aren’t paramount and in the forefront of every decision made by their parents. It’s difficult, but possible. If successful co-parenting is established, the divorce will not have emotional repercussions for the children in the children’s future relationships.
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