Experts and Gwyneth, don't kill me. I know divorcing and divorced parents need to make specific efforts to try to ensure their kids don't suffer from scheduling struggles, psychological issues and general relationship disasters of their own.
But now there are so many strategies, tips and theories floating around that it can be hard for a divorced parent to pick one. Many moms will remember their later pregnancy days, when they felt forced to pick one baby sleep expert and stick to him/her. For some of my friends, that one approach worked. It was disciplined and the book it was tied to detailed everything a parent would need to anticipate. There was a formula there to follow.
But fragmented families don't all follow the same formula. Though often they do face similar feelings.
I may not have a Ph.D. and my kids are far from perfect, but I think they are doing okay. And co-parenting is a work in progress. You never nail it down 100 percent by chapter ten. But you can try to make things better every day -- for you, for your kids, and for the sense of security they need to have.
And what I do have is the reality that I've lived through divorce -- as a kid -- three times -- and now, as an adult. Three takeaways to remember are:
#1 -- Don't Abandon Your Kids
If kids had two parents before the divorce, they still need two parents -- wherever those parents may live and however hard it is to coordinate visitation. (Unless of course, one parent is physically or verbally abusing the kid -- I don't mean to oversimplify here.) Daughters on the verge of their tween years may drag their feet going to their dad's house. Some kids may just want to stay put one weekend. I saw someone on Whisper say they only go to their dad's for the Wii. Whatever gets them there. Parents need to have a presence in their lives. If your kids tells you to go away, give them an hour to cool down. But always come back.
#2 -- Don't Fight In Front Of Your Kids
Hold your tongue, no matter how hard it is. No matter that you have the perfect one-line comeback in your head, no matter if you feel like you want (and need) to explode, don't subject your kids to it. File the thought, control the emotion, type it into your iPhone for later. But don't subject your kids to screaming. Didn't you get divorced to give them -- and YOU -- a happier environment?
#3 -- Don't Pretend It's Not Hard
The kids will see you sweat and stress about the small stuff -- and, of course, the big things. I'm not saying cry on the sofa with them or share your struggles about saving for college -- but be real. Life is not perfect now -- but it's probably pretty good. Feelings and visions about what a family was supposed to be and is now don't disappear -- they just refocus. Things didn't work out as anyone planned when you walked down the wedding aisle or were wheeled out of the delivery room. It's different. Acknowledge that. Give them that.
And, overall, remember: always, always come back.