Parenting Through Divorce
By: Orlando Divorce Attorney Joy Ragan
It is sometimes hard to see how our divorce is affecting our children because we are hurting so badly ourselves. It is easy to let our pain blind us to the needs of our children. Many times, the thing our kids need most is the thing that is the hardest thing for us to do: Be nice to our spouse.
Know that the “rock” in the children’s lives has always been your marriage. They feel as though they are now going through an earthquake and there is a crack in the foundation of their lives.
The more you lift up the other parent for them, the safer the children feel and the quicker they will adjust. Don’t do it because the other parent “deserves” it. Do it because your children deserve it.
The Judge will respect your ability to continue to praise the other parent. It will be refreshing for the Judge because they don’t see that type of thing nearly as often as they should.
Signs You Struggle Acting in Your Child’s Best Interest
As a divorce attorney, I see people who are often so angry at the other parent that they can’t act in their children’s best interest. At times there may be some legitimate reasons for some of these but here are red flags which may signal you are too emotional to act in your children’s best interest:
1. You don’t pay child support
2. You refuse to allow visitation.
3. You speak poorly of the other parent to the children
4. You bribe the child to get the child to choose to be with you over the other parent
5. You tell the children details about the divorce
6. You make visitation difficult, set the other parent up for failure or refuse to work as a team.
7. You obsess about your idea of what is “fair”.
People mistakenly believe that in a divorce they can “get rid of” their spouse. When you have children, this is simply not true. You are given the very difficult task of learning to co-parent when you couldn’t get along and communicate well enough to stay married. It is an extremely difficult endeavor.
Too often, attorneys make it worse. They inflame emotion and encourage clients to bring the fight home. One of the greatest allies you can have in a divorce is an attorney who understands the challenges of co-parenting.
An attorney’s job should be to keep the legal fights in the courtroom so that they parents are free to process the emotions outside of court and learn some tools to cope as unmarried parents. If you are divorcing with children, you should interview attorneys on their views and philosophies on co-parenting. If they can’t give you some good direction in this area or at least point you to the right place, then you haven’t found the right attorney for you.
There is No Room for Pride in Co-Parenting
The second biggest life skill needed for co-parenting through divorce is the ability to swallow your pride for the sake of your children. I know, I know … it’s not fair. Fair is a four-letter word in divorce. Early on in the process, none of it will feel fair. You are hurt and emotional. But, even through the pain, you have to provide a united front for the children.
You have to compromise when it’s uncomfortable; apologize when you don’t really mean it; and discuss your children’s needs even when you aren’t overly interested in the other parent’s opinion. It will be hardest in the beginning when the emotions are highest. With practice and patience, it will get easier.
You must continue the effort because your children’s well-being is worth it. A divorce is a great opportunity to teach your children how to resolve conflict in a healthy way. It is a challenging time that can be an opportunity for growth for the entire family. Parenting through divorce is about making the hard choices to facilitate that growth.