Five Things to Commit to When You’re Getting Divorced

DivorceBy Abby Bordner

The divorce rate is well over 50% in America. Let’s face it. Many kids are now living through divorce, in two homes, with new partners, step parents and step siblings. It’s the changing face of the American family.

Most divorcing parents can agree on one thing. They want to support their kids through the process the best they can. We all want our kids to be resilient through this family challenge and still feel secure, loved and cared for.

Here’s the bad news. You’re still in a relationship with your ex. You still have to behave in a thoughtful, productive way. You two will be sharing many decisions, challenges, joys and changes in your continued life together as parents of the same kids. So, you’re ex really won’t be “exed” out of your life any time soon.

I wrote this blog to help divorcing couples set some ground rules for the first few months to a year of your separation. This is the worst time. At least one of you (and perhaps both of you) really doesn’t want to have to deal the other one. It’s when we are most at risk of behaving badly. If you follow these five ground rules for helping your children to get through your divorce, the first year will be the hardest and then it will slowly get easier. I promise.

  1. Commit to the absolute best behavior you can muster in ALL situations. No yelling. No name calling. No sarcasm. Don’t be mean. I know it’s hard. It’s very hard. But your kids need to see you managing your anger, your emotion and your responses to each other. Find ways to vent and release. There are certain things that are no longer your business. Move on. It’s good for the kids.
  2. Commit to becoming a better person. Chances are, at the end of your marriage you weren’t at your best. Have a daily practice of managing stress in your life. Commit to your recovery from this difficult time. See a counselor. Meditate. Go to yoga. Exercise. Pray. Read insightful books. Rejuvenate friendships and family relationships with a sincere effort to celebrate the love that is available to you. Lean in for support and also build each other up. Don’t allow yourself to fall into bad habits or behaviors. It’s not good for the kids.
  3. Sincerely wish your ex well. It will come back to you three times over. When your ex is well, your kids will be well and ultimately, you will be well, too. Even if it’s forced and difficult, spend time every day with a mental picture of your ex in health and wellness. The practice of wishing your ex well will honor the wonderful times you spent together and especially the children you made together.
  4. This is a logistical one. My kids would be happy I included it. Take your children forgotten items as much as you possibly can. Let’s face it. The inconvenience of changing houses every few days and/or weeks is a lifestyle our children now have to live with. They can’t always remember and maybe didn’t even know what they will need when transferring from one house to the next. You’ll eventually get better at packing up all the things and you’ll grow to have two sets of most things between the houses. But when your kids forget something important, kindly get it to them. Don’t make it more stressful than it needs to be.
  5. Give your kids lots of physical affection. Touch is healing, for both of you. Consider it a priority when you’re with your kids to hug them, hold them, sit together, massage their heads and read together. Because you only have them half the time, schedule in time to hang out with your kids. Get to know them. Talk to them. And, of course never bad mouth their other parent. Never. Even if they are complaining or criticizing. Support your kids emotionally, don’t commiserate with them.

Hopefully, the unfortunate circumstance of divorce in your family will propel each parent into a life of more happiness and satisfaction. But you have to commit to it.

What were helpful ground rules during your divorce? Post a comment below.

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