A wise man was once asked: What is the greatest gift a parent can give their children?
His answer was, "Love your wife!" (Or husband, I will add.)
As a Divorce & Parenting Coach that response had a huge impact on me. Because it teaches a vitally important lesson.
Why is loving your wife such a valuable gift to your children? Because ...
• You are role modeling one of the most important qualities in the success of a relationship: demonstrating your love.
• Your children are parented by two parents who love (and that usually also means respect) one another, making them a parenting team. When parents co-parent together children are less likely to pit one parent against the other.
• Your children understand their place in the family and don't try to manipulate or bargain with one parent to gain favor or influence over the other.
• Life at home is more peaceful, respectful and cooperative, especially when parenting challenges come along.
So how does this concept relate to families coping with divorce and its aftermath?
Let's revise the question and see: What is the greatest gift a divorced parent can give their children?
The answer, based on my own personal and professional experience, should be: Respect your former wife! (or husband).
When you think about and treat your former spouse with respect, you are giving your innocent children a tremendous gift that will last a lifetime. Why? Because ...
• Your children aren't exposed to high conflict disputes, unveiled anger, insults and ongoing "drama."
• You can co-parent more effectively as a parenting team in the years and decades ahead.
• Your children can avoid the stress and embarrassment from having to keep their parents apart during holidays, activities, graduations and other important celebrations with their children.
• Your children are not robbed of their childhood by becoming pawns expected to act as spies, confidants or support systems for their angry or insecure divorced parents.
• Your children are not privy to personal issues between their divorced parents. You handle disagreements and other challenges together through communication, respectful conversation, professional guidance and co-parenting tools.
Can you have a respectful co-parenting relationship with your ex if you're filled with rage against them? Probably not. But keep in mind that rage is going to harm you more than it will impact your former spouse. Why not address it, so you can move on in your own life? Seek out a professional therapist, divorce coach, support group, clergy or co-parenting program to get insight about your feelings and find tools for handling your anger and other emotions more effectively.
What can these tools help you with?
Learning how to disagree without being disagreeable ... how to choose your battles ... how to be a better listener and communicator ... how to accept things you cannot change ... and most important of all, how to forgive - for your own benefit! These are all skills that will make a positive difference in your own life while being a generous and valuable gift to the children you love!
Isn't that a gift worth giving?