When divorce hits, what was once a family can quickly become riddled with rigid structures and agreements, inflexibility, and lots of decisions made by people who don’t even know your family.
Time with your kids suddenly becomes a pie chart of custodial time divided carefully into percentages outlined on a custody schedule—filed with the court.
Holidays and special events are split Solomon-style—one year on and one year off, or where one parent gets the morning and the other parent gets the afternoon, switching every other week, every other year…who can keep track of any of it anyway?
Vacation time gets worked out through a series of bids to see who can schedule “their time” so that they get the most time possible. Oh, and don’t forget every year the bidding starts all over again and you’re back to coordinating all your vacation plans around your ex’s willingness to be flexible—and vice versa.
If there are new partners in the mix, what should be a step up often feels like a step down.
And co-parenting? After it’s all said and done, sounds about as appealing as a co-payment.
If you’re a divorced parent and what you just read made you cringe, let me assure you that you’re completely normal.
Co-parenting, especially in the beginning stages, is about as easy as nailing jelly to the wall.
I’ve been working with separated parents for over 20 years, and I’m also a child of divorced parents who struggled…a lot.
Sadly between court-based language and words like “broken families” being tossed around, it’s hard not to feel gutted and resentful over the pain of losing your dream of how you wanted your family to be.
You didn’t have kids to share them between two homes, and it stings. To add insult to injury, a lot of the words associated with divorce like visitation, custody, primary parent, non-primary parent, resident parent, non-resident parent, don’t exactly leave you feeling warm and fuzzy.
Not only have you lost time and memories with your kids (whether you share them 50/50 or you have them most of the time), but you also have to rebuild your sense of family and the security you once had.
AND…even though you may no longer be in a challenging marriage, you and your ex will always be the only parents your kids will ever have. You are still connected to one another as parents and always will be.
The question is what kind of connection will that be?
Parents can get so caught up in the legal process and the administrative side of shared parenting that they may throw out words that diminish their child’s sense of family.
The biggest offender????
Some parents use this outdated court-based word without even thinking about the negative impact it could have on their child. After all isn’t it what their lawyer called time with the other parent?
Other parents use the word because they want to minimize the importance of the other parent in their children’s lives—this usually happens in high-conflict divorces.
But no child wants to feel like a visitor in a parent’s life. They desperately want to feel a sense of belonging and connection, and they can’t do that if they’re being treated like guests in a parent’s home.
So, while it may seem trivial that one little word—“visitation”—can have such a negative impact, remember that it’s not just one word, but rather one word that carries a lot of weight. A word that can make a child doubt their place in a parent’s life and feel insecure about the ongoing love of their parents.
Maybe you do have more time than the other parent with your kids and you believe that children need one primary home.
By implying that the other household is secondary and merely a place to visit, you may find that the other parent is willing to level the playfield by making the little time they have count. That precious bit of time quickly becomes filled with as much fun and as little discipline as possible. They transform into the “fun” parent while you become the dreaded “disciplinarian.”
Before you know it kids view your household as a void of all things fun. You become the parent who insists on homework, bedtimes, clean rooms, no cell phones at the table, and balanced diets.
Is that really a burden you want to bear all on your own?
This is why I advocate—whenever possible—for a two-home concept where both parents are significant sources of influence, equally engaged, and children feel equally connected to both homes.
Having two capable parents in the picture means more hands on deck for whatever arises, and it means both parents know they each are expected to share in all aspects of parenting. This, in turn, allows your children to feel a sense of belonging and connection in both homes.
The messages your children hear—whether about themselves, the other parent, or the other house—all add up to the story they believe about who they are and who they will become.
And your children want to be a part of a family with each of you, not the subject of a carefully-calculated visitation plan.
In my video program, Co-Parenting With Purpose: How to Raise Happy, Secure and Resilient Kids After You’ve Split Up, I’ll teach you a new way of talking about sharing kids that focuses on family, not outdated court terms!
You’ll learn how you may be inadvertently hurting your kids with the words you use—instilling confusion, loyalty conflicts, and unnecessary emotional pain.
Words are so powerful, and I’ll teach you how to use them wisely to make sure you’re doing your best for your children—including how you speak with the other parent.
Yes, sometimes things can get out of hand, and your children ARE listening, no matter how old they are. Even babies can feel the tension in an argumentative tone without understanding a single word.
With my program, you’ll learn a more positive, purposeful way to communicate that will help your children develop a healthy sense of self—plus set them up with the great communication skills they’ll need for their own relationships.
Finally, you’ll also learn how to handle the myriad of emotions you’re dealing with in parenting on your own—including grief, anger, and the pervasive sense of loss.What To Say To Help Kids Through Divorce
Changing your words is such a simple yet impactful thing you can do that will have a huge benefit for your child. And it may even make you look at your situation differently, too.
Best wishes to you and your children,
P.S. Remember, the best parent is BOTH parents.
It may not seem this way on the surface, especially if your ex is difficult or hasn’t held up their end of the deal. But all children see themselves as half Mom and half Dad, which is why it’s so critical to help them connect with the very best you each have to offer.Why I Support A Two-Home Concept