Parenting before after divorce can be complex, frustrating and confusing. However, every day parents around the world are coping with the challenges and raising happy, well-adjusted children. There are many factors that influence your effectiveness as a parent. Here is a six-step formula for pre- and post-divorce parenting success.
Step 1: Monitor Your Perceptions
The world is what we perceive it to be. If you perceive yourself to be a victim in your divorce, you will focus on evidence to prove that to be true.
If you instead take your divorce as a life experience to learn from, you will derive many benefits and value from the divorce, no matter how much pain is also involved. You will also accept responsibility for the part you played in the process and be more willing to contemplate new ways to live your life in the future that will bring more positive results.
Sadly, it’s through challenging experiences that we grow and learn the most from life. Are you uncovering meaningful lessons for you?
Step 2: Practice Respectful Parenting
Getting past your divorce is a small piece of the child-centered divorce puzzle if you are a parent. Working through the challenges of creating successful communication with your ex is a goal that must be worked on continuously. Keep your children in mind before making any decisions related to their well-being and you will stay on course.
Because you and your former spouse will be parenting your children for many years and decades to come, it makes sense to start off on the best possible course. The first step is to develop a respectful relationship with your ex. Remember that he or she is your child’s other parent whom they love. Treat your former spouse with that level of awareness and dignity in all your communication and they are more likely to return the same level of respect to you. Changes may not happen overnight. But with patience and persistence things can and will improve.
Step 3: Learn To Let Go
If you truly want to move on from your divorce, you must learn to let go of negative emotions that hold you hostage. These include anger, resentment, blame, jealousy, hatred and anxiety. Of course, there is a time and place for experiencing those emotions. Feel them; mourn the dream that turned sour. Then make a decision to let them go. Do this for your benefit — not on behalf of your former spouse.
Negative emotions can hold you in limbo and suck the life out of you. You get stuck in a place that’s painful to experience and it makes you unpleasant to be around. For the sake of your children — if not for yourself — decide to let it all go. Determine to move on. It’s not always easy to do, but the contrast of living in your pain is not an easy place to be either. Which state would you prefer?
Step 4: Try To Forgive
The big step after letting go of your negative emotions is learning to forgive. This starts with you. Forgive any mistakes you made related to your marriage or divorce. Forgive your poor choices, immaturity or naivety. Acknowledge yourself as someone who is open to personal growth, change and transformation. Feel your worth and start doing things that express self-love.
Next, take the big step to forgive your ex. This does not mean condoning their actions or hurtful behavior. It means you are determined not to let it affect you any longer.
You are cutting the emotional cords that bind you and keep you from enjoying the new possibilities in your life. Behind forgiveness is freedom. Don’t you want to be free of the pain, hurt, insecurity and rage that previously had power over you? Release your past — and be free!
Step 5: Handle Your Conflicts
Disagreements are inevitable between divorced parents from time to time. Develop good communication skills and you will minimize the damage that results.
When a conflict with your ex arises, be a good listener. Most disagreements come about from misunderstanding. Clarify what you heard to make sure that was the intention. Often one of you made an assumption that was erroneous and feelings got hurt.
It’s a good idea to get into the habit of paraphrasing what you think they said and ask for clarity. Apologize if you made an error or omission. Be understanding if your ex made the error. Try not to put them on the defensive or jump to negative conclusions.
Find a middle ground that you both can live with. Trade off getting to “win” the discussion or issue at hand. Agree to disagree if necessary. Learn to move on.
Step 6: Make Time For You
One of the healthiest things you can do in creating a positive attitude is making time for you! This is a gift that pays off on many levels in your life. Think about reinventing yourself in new ways that excite you. Take a yoga class. Pursue a new hobby. Volunteer at a shelter. Start a craft or business. Make time for strolls in nature, exercise and watching your diet. Treat yourself to a message. Indulge when you can.
When you nurture yourself, you can then give your children your total attention when you are with them. During and after divorce your kids need you more than ever. You can’t be there for them if you’re not there for yourself to renew your spirits.
Do the best you can. Take it day by day. If you need help, reach out for it without embarrassment or shame. You’re not alone. And the help you need is out there for you!
by Rosalind Sedacca, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network