I often say and firmly believe it is possible to make a better divorce after a marriage. Yes, there is such a thing as a better divorce!
As I wrote about recently, there are some valid reasons for divorce -- yet that doesn't make the process any less painful or challenging, especially when children are involved. While every situation is different, here are some ways you can help ensure you and your ex-spouse have a good divorce that benefits all parties involved, especially your children.
1. Follow my empathic process when communicating with your ex, and with our children.
The empathic process gives your kids the chance to reinsert control. When parents divorce, children often feel out of control because they didn't have a say or any options in the decision to divorce. It is important to stabilize your children first and make sure they feel they are truly loved and valuable members of your family. Allow your children to have a voice in the day-to-day decisions, such as the new sleeping arrangements; home decor, including sheets, blankets, pillows and bedspreads; where to go on spring break; and, finally, new family traditions. These small experiences of choice help your children feel invested in their new family.
2. Get professional counseling help for you and your children.
You are all going through a very difficult time, one that can be especially challenging to manage on your own. Counseling can help you recognize the patterns in your life that made you gravitate to your ex-spouse in the first place. This will help you understand and work to ensure that you don't repeat those relationship patterns again. Divorce is like a death and it must be both understood and grieved.
3. Act in your adult.
Divorce can send otherwise perfectly calm, rational adults into fits of irrational, immature, childish behavior. This is the time your children need you to truly be in your adult. To act in your adult means you do not burden your children with your own fears and negative emotions towards your ex-spouse and you do not constantly criticize him/her, remembering he/she is still the parent of your child, after all. Your child identifies with both of his parents understanding that he is part of each of them. So to speak negatively about your ex-mate is to undermine the identity and security of your own child. It is also important to keep in mind that your children are still children with developing brains. Young children think in concrete operations and cannot always understand the nuances of adult language; they may think that they are the cause of the divorce, and you have to help them understand that they are not.
4. Model what you want to see.
Remember that at all times your children are watching. Teenagers, especially, may see your unhappiness and wonder if happy relationships are possible. This is your chance to show children that although your marriage has ended, your potential for happiness has not ended. And, when the time has come to start dating again, you have the opportunity to give your children a second chance by showing them what a good, strong, happy relationship is like.
Divorce is never an easy thing for anyone involved. It may be a challenging, emotional, and psychological journey for families to undergo, but in the final analysis, this is the time to show your children how to be happy. From a miserable marriage can come a good divorce -- it takes a lot of work and focused effort, but the benefits to you and your children are well worth it.