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What you shouldn't do if you are a Divorced Parent

Divorce is difficult enough for the adults but add in the complication of the children and it just feels insurmountable. As parents, we want to make this whole process so much easier for our children as we don't want them suffering or hurting. I remember just wanting to shield my boys from anything that our divorce brought up and I spent a lot of time wondering if I was making the transition easier or harder for them. On reflection, rather than think about what I was doing, there were perhaps some things that I shouldn't have done. Here are a few that I have thought about. I hope you find these useful.

1. Stop avoiding the “hard “conversations.

There were some difficult issues in my divorce and I worried constantly if I was making it worse for my boys. What if I say the wrong thing or don’t know how to answer their questions? So instead of saying something, I ended up saying nothing.

I know that my silence may have left them wondering if it’s okay to talk about it. Sometimes, when they wanted to talk about the divorce, I put them off or tried to casually change the subject.

The parent in me wanted to protect them, to make the hurt and upset stop. The rational part of me knew keeping them in the dark wasn't helping either.

The point here is that you should make sure your children feel like it’s okay to talk and ask questions.  Avoiding the subject is our problem, not theirs. The Elephant in the room discussion needs to be had. They will feel closer to you and forms a fantastic basis for your future relationship.

2.     Stop ignoring yourself.

A lot of times I felt stuck but didn't reach out for help. I’d convinced myself if I just dug deep and kept my head down, I could get through this on my own. 

The problem is it doesn’t always work.  There are times when I felt exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed and sometimes even resentful of the situation.  When this happens, we can't be the parents, they need you to be.

I paid more attention checking off to-do lists than whether I was eating, sleeping or getting a break once in a while.

However, on reflection, I realise that if I didn’t make it, my boys wouldn't either.

Commit to finding support for you, whether it’s a trusted friend to help you sort things out, reading a book or finding a professional who can offer some insight.Take that first step.  Make time to see a movie just for you, hang out with friends or go for a run. Do not, not take care of you. Do a better job of taking care of yourself. Not only will it allow you to be a better parent, but maybe it will help you set the bar a little higher for your children.

3.     Stop expecting your truth to be their reality.

Whatever or however you feel about the other parent, is your truth, but it's not your children's.

And yet, sometimes feelings and memories from the past get the best of us and we forget that both parents are two people that will always be the only Mum and Dad they will ever have.  

It's difficult but try to separate your feelings about your marriage from your children's needs.  As strange and sometimes contrary to what we feel, try to be more supportive of the relationship your child(ren) has with the other parent and their home with them.

4.   Stop keeping score.

Sharing time with the children is really hard. We can resent not always being the parent who gets to see the first time they ride a bike, score a goal, win the science fair or go to big events.  We want to be there for all of it and it hurts that we can't.

As a result, we can get really focused on having “my time” with the children and keeping things fair. We forget that what feels fair to us, may not feel so great for the children.

When we get caught up in keeping score, in effect our children do too and this is not good for them.  Spend your time creating beautiful memories with your children, that is what they will remember, not who had more time.

5.     Stop sweating the small stuff.

We sometimes lose our perspective when in disagreements with the other parent. We can dig our heels in, when actually we probably want to be more flexible but our emotions about the other parent and the situation makes it too hard to change and impossible to step back.

Truth is, most things don’t matter as much as we think. When you take a step back, most of the problems we lose sleep over are actually quite small.

When things go pear-shaped, try to give yourself some perspective by asking “What difference will this make one month from now? How about six months or a year?” My favourite line to myself was always " Will this matter in two years?" Give it a go, you may find it helps you see things a little differently.

6.     Stop making negative comparisons.

Oh, how I have been guilty of this. Seeing glimpses of my ex husband in my eldest, and not in a good way. I know I have slipped up and said “You’re just like your Dad.” When he has answered back about a rule he doesn't like, I might have said, “You’re as stubborn as your Father,” or worse.

Its ok, we've all made mistakes.

When parents get divorced, it’s like you have blinkers on.  It’s easy to get caught up in all the negative, petty stuff you don’t like about each other. But that’s not fair on the children.

From now on, do your best to steer clear of zeroing in on the not so great and put more energy into reminding your children of the wonderful ways they are like the both of you. 

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