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How Divorce Affects Children and families

Divorce and Children: The Not So Secret Way to Get Through Divorce Without Breaking up the Family

Divorce is complicated. Divorce and children? That’s when uncomplicating things really matters. A “normal” family dynamic looks different to all of us. But those relationships and routines—the warmth, safety, energy, and feeling of support a family provides—is something none of us wants to lose. The benefits of a close-knit family seem obvious when you look at your children and think about what is best for them and their future.

It often feels like the whole of society dedicates itself to family ideals, to the conventional, to sizing up our families and judging how they fit into the mold. But the conventional is not reality. Most families don’t fit into the mold at all, and yet they are wonderful in their uniqueness. Every family functions its own way. Whether you’re divorced or not, if your children know that their parents are there for them, then that is all it takes to make a family.

There are many ways divorce can affect a family, but thankfully, there are also many ways your family can continue to function after divorce. This is the time in your children’s lives when they need your support, patience, and understanding the most. Parents are not the only ones who go through a divorce, and the experience can be very confusing for children of all ages.

What children of divorce need

When it comes to children and divorce, know that your kids can come through the other side of divorce as stronger people. There are positive lessons to learn even in what seems to be an endless series of negative experiences. Divorce can teach your children a lot about life and help them become the capable young adults you want them to be.

Overcoming obstacles is a huge part of life, and divorce is full of life lessons for adults and children alike. The old saying “pull together in times of crisis” rings true. Your loved ones need to love and be loved even during stressful or uncertain moments in their lives (perhaps especially in these moments). A divorce may represent the first big upheaval and genuine challenge your children face—it’s important to help them get through it.

Tell your children that divorce is unfortunate but not unusual. That both you and your Ex love your children and that neither of you is going anywhere. No one is getting left behind. Tell your children that life is full of changes, and this is just one of them. It is no one’s “fault.” In fact, leave out the details altogether until your children are old enough to understand but do respect their right to know the truth—whatever you do, don’t outright lie. Lying is never a good example to set, and no one deserves to be kept in the dark when everything they are experiencing is confusing enough already.

Make sure that, when possible, you and your Ex are still present and involved in your children’s lives. Organizing regular time to spend with both parents and having similar rules for each household will help create stability for your children. Custody schedules can be a big help at this stage. While you and your children adjust to your new situation, it is better to minimize schedule changes, and if possible, avoid changing schools too. Consistency and routines are important. That doesn’t mean adopt a rigid parenting plan. You need to allow room for flexibility because no one is perfect. Just try to keep some form of routine until everyone can settle in.

Be prepared for changes

A big fear for many parents after getting a divorce is that their children will start to act out and show signs of bad behavior. It’s common for children of divorce to experience mixed emotions, stress, or anger—to feel hurt—just like you. If you notice these warning signs, you need to do the best you can to address your child’s emotions as soon as you can so that they don’t develop into behavioral problems.

If your children tell you they are okay, don’t automatically take their word for it. Make sure to check on how your children are behaving in school and speak to them as often as you can without being overly nosy. Create a safe space where your children feel they can talk to you about things openly. Speaking to an impartial person can also help your children so you shouldn’t rule therapy out. However, you shouldn’t force your children to go to therapy either. Extended relatives can be really helpful in this regard, someone close to your children but not too close for them to share time with. Children love and need every member of their family so try not to cut any of these family figures out of their lives.

That being said, be prepared for a variety of reactions amongst your extended family. It’s natural for family members to try to take sides, but this is the last thing you want. Children pick up on hostility, and it’s not fair to put them in situations where they may feel forced to choose a side. Talk to your in-laws, grandparents, and everyone else you can think of. Express your concerns and try to keep your disagreements with or prejudices against your Ex private. Focus on the positives instead.

Tell your extended families how you see yourselves moving forward together in the future. No matter your feelings towards your Ex or his family, your children don’t deserve a damaged relationship with him as this can be hard to overcome.

Divorce and children—what really matters

The experts don’t always agree about how much divorce affects families. The main thing to focus on is your children’s wellbeing in the wake of all these big changes. The end of a marriage often affects children of divorce the most, and you need to reassure them while respecting their right to their emotions. It’s impossible to completely protect children from everything. Children of divorce are stronger than you can imagine. Most children will not go on to develop problems after divorce but, like you, may have painful memories.

You, your children, and your Ex will always be a family. Your children need to realize this. It’s your job to make sure that they do. Every family is different and deals with divorce in their own way, but a family is still a family—there’s no changing that. The structure of a family can change over time, but that won’t stop you from growing together like all people in relationships do. Divorce can be healthy and so can the family relationships that blossom after it.

SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future. “Divorce can be on your terms.” – SAS For Women

This article was authored by Krishan Smith: senior editor and content specialist at Custody X Change, a custody software solution. Custody X Change provides software for developing and managing custody agreements, parenting plans, and schedules.

Woman celebrating after surviving a nasty divorce.

How to Survive a Nasty Divorce (And Take Care of You, Too! )

Every divorce is heartbreaking because it abruptly ends the dream of living happily ever after together. But a nasty divorce is doubly painful because of the ongoing onslaught of your Ex’s aggressive behavior.

Aggressive behavior during (and after) a bad divorce can take many forms.

Purposeful cruelty

People who resort to purposeful cruelty do things that range from petty to dangerous. At the petty end of the scale, your Ex might spread rumors about you or flaunt his* new relationship.

However, some Exes seem to lose their common sense and do hurtful things simply out of spite. They can get so wrapped up in hurting you that they’ll destroy property, kill beloved pets, or even deliberately attempt to cause you (or your children) physical and/or emotional harm.

If your Ex is behaving in dangerously cruel ways, be sure to get the help you need to protect yourself and your children. Do you need to file a restraining order? Talk to your divorce attorney to hear more.

Making false accusations

Other tactics Exes use in a nasty divorce include calling the police to falsely report you as being abusive, filing restraining orders against you for actions you’ve never taken, and accusing you of stealing marital property.

On the other hand, his accusations can be less legal in nature. He may denounce you for wanting to make his life miserable, for only being concerned about money, or some other perception he has that is not based in fact.

Unpredictable rage

Divorce and anger often go together. However, when you’re dealing with a nasty divorce, it’s a bit different. Your Ex will regularly explode for no apparent reason and be unable to speak to you in a civil tone unless he is compelled to.

His rage can strike fear in you and/or your children. And in the worst instances, his behavior can be emotionally abusive. If this is the case for you, get the protection and support you need to heal.

Each of these behaviors is an attempt to control you. A nasty divorce is all about control.

Your Ex may even use the divorce process to attempt to dominate you. He may refuse to communicate with you to drag out your divorce. He may petition for primary custody when all he really wants is joint custody or simply visitation, and he may refuse to pay support until required to do so by the court or until you do something he wants.

The list of cruel tactics someone who is out for revenge in divorce will take is virtually endless. Feeling hurt by any kind of cruelty is normal.

However, what makes a nasty divorce especially painful is that the person you thought would always have your back has turned on you. He is using everything he knows about you as a weapon in his hate-filled arsenal. He knows your vulnerabilities and is ruthlessly exploiting every single one of them.

It’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that the person you married is behaving this way. And addressing this thought is exactly where learning how to survive a nasty divorce begins.

The fact is the person you married is not the person you are divorcing. The person you married does not exist anywhere except in your memories.

The person you are divorcing is someone else—someone who is filled with thoughts of revenge and making you pay for the end of his marriage even if he is the one who wanted the divorce.

Once you begin acknowledging that the person you’re divorcing is a virtual stranger, you’ll find it easier to distance yourself from the nastiness of your divorce by doing the following:

1. Accept that your Ex’s behavior will be unacceptable at times.

He will push your buttons because it’s how he can control you. He will be cruel and vengeful. And the longer you remain a victim of your emotions, the longer you will be vulnerable to his attacks.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t feel hurt by your Ex’s actions. It simply means that you begin expecting that he will behave in abhorrent ways. That way when he does something terrible you aren’t completely derailed for a lengthy period of time.

2. Don’t let his behavior change you.

It can be incredibly tempting to treat your Ex the same way he is treating you. But don’t. If you do, then you’ll only escalate the situation, and your Ex will have achieved his goal of hurting and controlling you.

Instead, keep your cool. Remember to continue to behave in ways that you’ll be proud of years from now.

3. Get a support team.

Surround yourself with people who are on your side, can help you navigate the unfamiliar landscape of divorce, AND can help you keep your cool. Choose to confide in and count on friends, family, a legal professional, a therapist, and/or a divorce coach who can help you achieve your goals.

4. Keep your focus on your kids (if you have them).

Concentrating on helping your kids get through this major transition in their lives is another great way for you to navigate your nasty divorce.

You’ll want to keep in mind that no matter how heinous your Ex’s behavior is, your children still love both of you. And it’s up to you to respect your children’s love.

You’ll also want to avoid putting your children in the middle of the mess which means they aren’t your spy or messenger.

5. Keep communicating with your Ex.

The only way to get through your divorce is to do what needs doing which includes interacting with your Ex.

Although it may be tempting, stonewalling or ignoring your Ex will work against you. Refusing to communicate about any of the details required to move things forward will only inflame him more.

6. Shore up your Achilles’ heel.

Your Ex knows your weaknesses and is looking to exploit them. If you’re concerned about finances, he can control you with financial threats. If you’re concerned about spending time with your children, he can control you with threats of taking the children away from you.

Whatever your Achilles’ heel is, ask your support team for help to put together a plan to make you less vulnerable.

Even after you’ve accepted that the person you’re divorcing is not the one you married, each of these ideas can still be challenging to act on. You’ll do better some days than others. This is your normal and human process as you continue to heal in your divorce recovery.

So, make it a point to practice self-compassion. Don’t expect yourself to do everything perfectly—just do enough.

Dealing with your Ex’s aggressive behavior will be difficult no matter what you do. However, by disengaging from your Ex and taking care of yourself you will survive your nasty divorce.

SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future. “Divorce can be on your terms.” – SAS For Women

*Disclaimer: We fully understand and respect same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we have indicated your Ex as a male.

Single mother lifting her daughter

Coparenting Tips: 4 Ground Rules All Divorced Parents Should Live by (For Everybody’s Sake)

So that’s it. Game over. You’re all talked out, and the writing on the wall is clear. Something has to change, and you and your partner have decided divorce is the best answer. If you share children with your Ex, then before you can even think about how you’ll fumble through the world of dating (because, at first, there’s sure to be at least a little fumbling while you figure out what you want) you have to come to terms with your new situation. You need coparenting tips and someone to shine a light on the path that leads forward and beyond. So, let’s begin.

You could sit on the couch watching episode after episode of Ray Donovan (cliché carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream included). You could go to the gym and spin yourself silly with endorphins. Or, you could head to Vegas for a divorce party and toast your new beginning. Whatever you do, don’t settle for old stereotypes—images of women plotting their Ex’s demise in the shadows. You’ve got too much to look forward to and to discover. Concentrate instead on creating the best life possible for your children, and redrafting the shared connection you will always have with your Ex. Confront those negative feelings about your Ex, and work on building a successful coparenting relationship. When you realize the positive impact doing so has on your children, nothing else will matter. Trust me.

Stay focused

Remember those negative feelings I mentioned? (Of course you do—right now those feelings are still fresh and raw.) They’re your first hurdle to jump on your journey toward successful coparenting. Everyone needs to vent. That’s what friends, and coaches, and therapists, and groups are for. Sharing your experiences with and supporting others, can help you move past your own feelings and gain perspective. Your emotions can be obstacles when enforcing the following four coparenting tips, so learn to let go.

Focus on creating a warm and stable environment for your children. It’s a difficult time for them too, of course. They need their parents now, possibly more than ever, and they need you to be united. Not distracted by personal squabbles that have nothing to do with your role as parents. When talking to your Ex, try not to bring up the past or allow yourself to be drawn into arguments. Stay on topic.

You are bound to have more than a few disagreements about your differing parenting philosophies. Stay focused on your main goal: doing what’s right for your children. They need time with both their parents without disrupting their entire lives and routines.

Stay positive

Staying positive can be tricky, right? The end of a marriage can feel like the end of your world, but it’s only the start of something new. Your marriage may not have turned out as planned, but that doesn’t mean you have nothing to be grateful for. Your children, friends, extended family, and pets should all add to not detract from your life. Maintaining a positive outlook is one of the best coparenting tips out there. Negative experiences are what you make of them. How you react to those experiences determines whether or not you learn from them.

Being positive helps you proactively pursue an ideal coparenting setup. Explore the potential of mediation, therapy, and counseling, and take time to learn about the processes involved in creating a parenting plan or custody agreement. There’s a lot of information out there. The legal aspects involved in creating a custody agreement can make it seem like a daunting task, but really, forming an agreement can be simple.

Get organized, but be flexible

Staying focused and positive are two coparenting tips that will help you create the consistency every family needs, especially those going through divorce proceedings. Having a set visitation calendar helps both you and your coparent understand your responsibilities with little room for conflict or misunderstandings.

Something I’ve touched on in a previous article is respecting your coparent’s differences and parenting style. It’s great to have shared values and rules about how to properly raise children, but there are bound to be points you simply don’t agree on. Structure is crucial, but being rigid is a barrier.

For the initial transition period, it can help if everyone (parents and children) has a routine. The routine will change—that’s just life! If you still need to iron out the kinks in your routine and lock down schedules, a temporary custody agreement might be the best option for your family.

Be prepared to compromise. I know this isn’t easy. You love your kids. Your feelings for your Ex, on the other hand, are complicated (to say the least). But just remember any feelings you have for your Ex can’t compare to the love you have for your children. Any compromises you make are for them.

Communicate often and effectively

In my last article, I also spoke at length about keeping the channels of communication open. Nothing has changed since then. Avoid misunderstandings by communicating often, and be a positive role model for your children (and your Ex).

Keeping your Ex in the dark about important matters will only jeopardize your ability to stay positive and focused. Be civil (even when they aren’t making it easy). Being civil helps control everyone’s emotions, and you will leave exchanges feeling all the better for it.

If you have children, it’s not news to you that your Ex will most likely always be a part of your life. These coparenting tips will help you set aside your feelings and do right by your children. A rocky marriage does not have to translate to a rocky childhood for your kids.

Whether you are navigating the experience and aftermath of divorce, or in that confusing but fertile place of recreating the life you want to lead, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of “After Divorce.” “A successful divorce requires smart steps through and beyond the divorce document.” Learn what we mean and how it will benefit you in a free 45-minute consultation.

 

This article was authored by Krishan Smith: senior editor and content specialist at Custody X Change, a custody software solution. Custody X Change provides software for developing and managing custody agreements, parenting plans and schedules.

Father coparenting his daughter by tending to her hair.

How to Parent Your CoParent (Without Him Realizing!)

You know that setting an example is always important. And you can guess, I’m not just talking about the model you demonstrate to your kids. When you separate and become coparents, it is so easy to disengage and consequently, communicate less and less with your ex. It can be such a relief! Yet, communication more than ever remains key. If you want a healthy coparenting situation where both parents are informed and active (the best scenario for your children), then how you share information is vital. What’s more, communicating healthily in front of your children provides them with a model to base their own behavior.

The value of setting the coparent example

If you want your children to grow up as kind-hearted, thoughtful, respectful people then screaming at your coparent is not going to cut it. Your ex needs to realize this too.

So, if you lead, if you set the example, this will show your coparent “how it’s done” (potentially, he* may have no idea, otherwise). This might well encourage your ex to emulate you (but don’t ask him to acknowledge that!)

There should be a clear distinction between setting an example for your ex-spouse and making an example of him/her. If the other half of your coparenting duo is failing in some way, don’t complain about this to your children. If your coparent is breaking arrangements or missing dates, speak to him about it whilst keeping the interests of your children the focal point of your conversation. You must always frame things and behaviors as how they impact the children. Try explaining that lateness and missing appointments “are not values we want to instill in our children” and simultaneously how “it’s not fair to keep them waiting or give them false expectations.” “They are excited to see you and disappointed when you don’t show up or appear unreliable.”

This seems self-evident, but your coparent is rarely going to be motivated to please you (–although some ex’s are evolved). So venting to him about your plans being foiled or your appointments being missed because of him and his lateness or no show, is not going to necessarily cause him to be more reliable in the future.  Again, it’s the kids, it’s the kids …

It goes without saying that you then need to do everything to keep your word, and you must honor your appointments. When you reach an agreement, stick to it. Parenting plans and schedules are designed to be flexible but simultaneously need to be stuck to unless enough prior notice is given to all involved parties (including your kids).

Respect your differences

There are many different parenting styles and it’s highly unlikely that you and your ex will see eye to eye on all aspects of raising the children. In fact it’s highly unlikely these days you see eye to eye on anything! That being said you can’t expect each co-parent to share the exact same ideals and try to implement the same parenting methods. Differences don’t mean that one approach is right and that one is wrong. If you want your coparent to see things from your point of view, or if your ex genuinely needs a metaphorical kick up the backside in terms of effort levels, then the best approach is not belittling the parent in front of the children.

Parenting styles you may be familiar with range from Authoritative to Permissive with plenty of room for grey areas in between. Of course, if your coparent is massively lacking discipline in an area of their parenting then you should have a quiet word. You need to agree on values you teach your children and consistent rules regardless of which household they’re staying at. This doesn’t mean being too involved in your coparent’s time with your child though; give your ex room to naturally develop his relationship, solo, with the children.

Don’t give up!

If you can accept your differences then you can work together. Don’t dismiss your chances at having a successful coparenting relationship, because your marriage did not work. Your children are one of the wonderful things that remain of your relationship. And it is for your children that it’s worth doing your best now with your ex. Giving your children the quality of life you want, the parenting relationships they need, and the easiest transition between households are your goals.

Listen to your co-parent, acknowledge his opinion and respect prior arrangements. Reinforce the fact that you are a parenting team. Be considerate towards your ex, co-operate, apologize when necessary and communicate effectively whilst applying restraint. Keep your coparent informed, updated and most importantly involved with your children.

Be prepared to compromise and work on your patience! Apply constructive criticisms SELECTIVELY and be ready for the response. It may seem like a lot to remember but eventually it will come more naturally and once applied you should be able to get a mirrored response from your ex-spouse. If not, he will run risk of being the “bad guy” and in that situation at least your children will have one positive role model to look up to.

Doing the right thing improves your coparenting relationship and your parent/child relationship. It may seem obvious but then again nobody will claim it is easy. When past love, hate, bitterness and emotion is involved it becomes very difficult to be the bigger person and control your actions, words and body language. Nevertheless you must put the hurt and anger aside and separate your feelings from your behavior. Your children must realize that they are far more important than the issues that ended your relationship with your Ex.

This article was authored by Krishan Smith, senior editor and content specialist at Custody X Change, a custody software solution. Custody X Change provides software for developing and managing custody agreements, parenting plans and schedules whilst additionally providing free co-parenting resources and a scholarship program for single parents.

(* Disclaimer: For the sake of brevity, this article relies on the pronoun “him” as the gender of  your ex; while we well realize your ex may be a she.)