Let’s face the facts: Our children are the real losers when adults can’t make the marriage work. When we start to act immaturely during or after the split, our children pay the price. They feel caught in the middle of the chaos surrounding the most important people in their lives – their parents. Too often, our egos win the battle, and our children lose the war.
When separating partners can’t find ways to deal with negative emotions in the aftermath of divorce, or when we feel animosity towards our former partners, our children know. They feel caught in the storm, lonely, isolated and often lost. SHAME ON US as parents (myself included!) for allowing that to happen.
I have seen divorce up close three times; once, in childhood, when my parents divorced; and twice as a parent myself, with my children involved. I know the loneliness and isolation a child feels deep within. But despite this knowledge and my best intentions, I have failed many times, letting anger, jealousy or other negative emotions overtake me.
Positive co-parenting is essential for children’s well-being.
Choose to be positive co-parents! Life is so very short. Choose to avoid bitterness and instead, move forward to create a future filled with joy, peace, and happiness.
7 Tips for Peaceful Co-Parenting
1. Commit to Open Communication – with your ex and with your child(ren). At this emotional time, our instinct is to protect ourselves and our children by trying to act normally, hiding our emotions. Don’t! Trying to cover up what is happening just doesn’t work; children of all ages sense when things aren’t right at home. Use age-appropriate language to help your children understand what is happening and what will happen to them (where will they live, that they are still loved, etc.).
2. Proceed with respect. No matter what happened to bring about your divorce, your ex is someone you once loved deeply. Respect your history together and the good times you once enjoyed. They also need to see you interact with each other in a responsible, respectful manner.
3. Peace always starts with you. Remember this and work towards maintaining your inner peace in ways that work best for you (meditation, deep breathing, learning new things, etc.). Invest time and energy to create a new relationship with your ex. In time, the divorce will be a distant, less painful memory. No one can control the behavior of others, but we can choose how we respond.
4. Own your part. Rarely is one partner entirely to blame for the breakdown of a relationship. Keep a balanced view and try not to see yourself as a victim. Laying blame now builds hurt and negativity while slowing our healing process.
5. Accept that you can’t change others. Your ex may not choose peace as his/her path, and that is something that you cannot control. Learn to make choices that allow you to navigate this in a peaceful manner. Don’t meet when you are upset. Don’t respond to nasty texts, emails, or voice messages.
6. Become happy again. Search within yourself to rediscover passions, hobbies, and interests that you would like to pursue. Get to know the ‘new you’.
7. Know your coping strategy – choose control! Research* has shown that there are two common strategies for coping with stressful times.
- CONTROL copers take a positive, proactive approach when they face change. They refuse to take on the role of victim and actively seek solutions
- ESCAPE copers take an avoidance approach, dwelling on negative or unwelcome thoughts and emotions, and taking specific actions to avoid difficult aspects of change.
How do you cope?
Each coping choice made by you and your partner can make divorce easier or more difficult for your family. Choose wisely, choose control!
Maintaining a peaceful, healthy environment for your child(ren) through this difficult time will allow them to reap the rewards of long-term happiness and confidence. If possible, discuss these tips with your ex to ensure a positive transition for your child(ren) and yourself.
Best of luck to you and yours.
About Susan Binau
Susan is a motivational speaker, published author, and survivor of cancer and other life-threatening illnesses that changed her perspective on life.
Her mission is to inspire others through "hands-on tools," educational programs, coaching and self-help books.