Parenting through Divorce

Tips on Parenting: Divorce
Divorce is difficult for the entire family.  Adults go through many feelings that they have trouble reconciling. You try to remain strong for your child.  I have many parents talk to me about trying to find balance in their life with their ex-spouse and do what is best for their child.  I have some simple tips on ways to reduce your anger towards your ex-spouse and keep your child’s best interest in mind.
First of all, it’s alright to be angry.  Once you have divorced, people go through the experience of loss.  Most people will go through the stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance.  This is normal, even though it is difficult.  I see many parents going through these stages and trying to keep their children from seeing their feelings.  Understand that children pick up on things and are probably feeling the loss as well as you are.  I encourage parents to find a safe place for themselves to express their feelings without the child present.  Talk to a friend or family member who will listen and support you and don’t talk to them around your child.  Therapy is also a wonderful way to express your emotions without affecting your child.
When dealing with your spouse there are ways to check yourself to keep your emotions from taking over and getting upset.  You don’t want to bad mouth your ex-spouse in front of the children.  I have found that a few simple questions you can ask yourself will help you reduce your feelings of anger and keep your child’s best interest in mind.  
First ask yourself what your real reason for revealing any information about your ex-spouse to your children is.  If your reason is because you are frustrated with that person or want to get back at them, stop yourself from talking.  Your child does not need to hear you vent your frustrations, talk to another adult who will support you about this later.  
Second ask yourself is my child harmed by the behavior I’m about to criticize or will they be harmed if they don’t have the correct information.  It is hard to know what will and won’t harm your child.  I have found that the way a parent presents information is really what the child tunes into.  Suppose your ex-spouse is late in picking up your children.  You can get mad and say something to the effect of, “Your father is always late and never reliable.  What’s wrong with him, doesn’t he love you enough to get here on time?”  This is obviously a response based on anger and personal frustration.  However the parent could say something like, “It’s alright for your father to be late, sometimes grownups run late and can’t help it.  Let’s wait for him to get here, I’m sure he’ll be here soon.”  This is giving good solutions to your child about patience, which will also translate to you when you run late.  The child will also not think that there is a problem with them which forces the parent to be late.
Really, the best question you can ask yourself is, if I were still married to my spouse, and I wanted to protect my children’s relationship with them, how would I handle this problem.  Chances are whatever frustrating situation you are experiencing with your ex-spouse, you had to deal with when you were married to them.  You probably handled it with less anger and frustration.  If you want a healthy relationship with your child you cannot bad mouth your ex-spouse.  Think of ways to explain problems to your children with real world applications, you will have better outcomes with your ex and hopefully this will make them respect you in the same way.
Some of the ideas presented in this blog is from reading a book call, Divorce Poison by Dr. Richard A Warshak. I recommend it as a way to get ideas for parenting through divorce, especially when your ex-spouse is difficult to communicate with.