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Coparenting Children’s Birthdays after divorce

Coparenting Through Children’s Birthdays After Divorce

Despite the high divorce rates, the end of a marriage is never easyespecially when you’re the one getting divorced. Obviously, it’s not easy for you or (most likely) your Ex. And it’s definitely difficult for your children. Children of divorce tend to wonder about things like what part they played in the breakup of their family and how their lives will change. For this reason, successful coparenting through children’s birthdays can be especially important.

Ideally, you will be able to coparent with your Ex and continue to provide your children with the love, support, and structure they need so they can begin to understand that your divorce isn’t about them. One way this can happen is if you’re able to celebrate your children’s special events like birthdays, graduations, and weddings as one happy, well-adjusted, expanded family.

As ideal as this sounds, it may not be a reality for you right now. (And it might never be if your ex is a narcissist and/or unable to coparent.) Right now, you might need to work toward truly being able to successfully coparent through your children’s birthdays after divorce. If this is your situation, remember that working toward something is hugely important to making it happen!

The Importance of Birthdays

Children love celebrating their birthdays. They excitedly wait for their special day to arrive. And when it does, they are the center of attention.

As adults, it is easy for us to believe that if we cannot work together right now to throw a joint birthday party for our child, that two separate ones will be just as goodif not better! (Assuming, of course, that you don’t turn the 2 parties into a competition.)

However, that’s not how young children (3 – 5 years old) view it. Children in this age range tend to believe that they age because they have a birthday party, according to research by Dr. Jacqueline Wooley. So, children in this age range would tend to believe that two birthday parties would mean they’ve aged two years instead of just one.

As adorable as this might be to contemplate, it is quite confusing for the child. And if their parents have also recently divorced, it is just confusion on top of confusion.

As children age, however, the idea of 2 birthday parties can become more appealing. Yet their ideal is still to have one party which their entire family attends.

Navigating Expenses for a Shared Birthday Party

If you can celebrate your child’s birthday together, who pays for what can often become a point of contention. It is not unheard of for one parent to plan the event with no regard to budget and simply expect the other to pay for it. This is not successful coparenting.

Coparenting through a child’s birthday after divorce requires communicationjust as every other facet of successful coparenting does. It doesn’t mean you each have to do exactly 50% of everything involved in throwing the party. It simply means that you don’t surprise the other with a bill or anything else at the end.

The size or extravagance of birthday celebrations after divorce may also be different due to differing financial situations. Your children may be disappointed that instead of the usual trip they had become used to, this year’s celebration will be a gathering of friends and family at home.

And as sad as you might feel about not being able to do this, the truth is that so long as you and your coparent take time to celebrate your child and let them know how much you love them, that is what your child needs more than a trip or a new iPhone.

Quality Over Quantity

Coparenting through your child’s birthday after divorce is really about the quality of the connection you have with your childnot about the number of gifts, the number of friends in attendance, or which parent spent the most. It is about the love, support, and structure you provide for your child as you celebrate their birthday and every other day of the year.

Divorce isn’t easyespecially for the kids. However, if you and your Ex can find even small ways to successfully coparent especially for special occasions like holidays and birthdays, you can go a long way toward building a strong foundation for your entire extended family. And, who knows, you may wind up being one of those families who can come together with new spouses and step-kids to celebrate life.

 

Whether you are considering a divorce or already navigating the confusing experience, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce. 

“A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.” ~ Liza Caldwell, SAS Cofounder.

Make a move to support what’s possible for you and your children, hear feedback on your challenges, and learn specific black & white steps to take based on your story: schedule your free consultation now.

Support kids through divorce

7 Ways to Lovingly Support Your Kids Through Divorce

Whether you’re contemplating, planning, or coparenting after divorce, if you’re a parent it’s vitally important that your children are your top priority. Before making any decisions regarding divorce issues, put yourself in their shoes in order to best support your kids. Think about the consequences for them. See the outcome through the eyes of your five, ten, or fifteen-year-old. Ask yourself, what will they say about this when they are grown adults? Will they thank me for the way I handled the divorce, or be angry and resentful about my attitude and behavior?

The choices you make will affect your children for years and, yes, decades to come. For their sake, try to take the high road and be the role model they will come to respect and later want to emulate.

Here are some helpful tips for mindfully supporting the children you love before, during, and long after your divorce.

Before Divorce: Avoid Showing Conflict Around the Kids!

  1. Studies show time and again that conflict and tension around children creates the most difficulties for them related to divorce. It’s not the divorce itself! Parents can ease the process for their kids by eliminating battles, disrespectful behavior, and emotional outburst anywhere near the kids. That means no fighting on the phone, in another room, during pick-ups and drop-offs, or when talking with friends within earshot of your child.
  2. When you belittle, put down, or in any way disrespect your child’s other parent, regardless of how justified it may feel, it hurts your children in deep and long-lasting ways.

    Kids innately love and feel connected to both their parents. When you insult their other parent, it creates confusion, guilt, sadness, anger, insecurity, and low self-esteem.

    Instead, support your kids by reminding them that you will always be their parents and will always love them. Reassure them that no one will replace their parents either. “We will both always love you and be there for you, no matter where we live or how things should change.” Then make it your business to do the right thing on their behalf.

  3. Don’t wait for emotional or behavioral problems to appear. It is often wise to talk to a coparenting coach or family therapist in advance about issues worth your attention when assisting your children through divorce. Or schedule a few sessions with your children so they can express their anxiety, fear, anger, etc., and feel heard by an objective, third party. Ask friends, pediatricians, clergy, divorce coaches, or school professionals for referrals to professionals experienced with helping children through divorce.

During Divorce: Separate without Blaming or Shaming Your Kids

  1. It is common for children to blame themselves for the divorce no matter how bad their parents’ relationship has been. The younger the child, the more likely it is for this to occur. Sit down together and talk to your kids, emphasizing that they are in no way at fault. You can say something like:“Sadly, Mom and Dad* don’t agree about certain key issues and that has created conflict. Even when some of the things are about you, it does not mean you are to blame. You are an innocent child we both love. We disagree about some things—but not about our love for you. You are not to blame for our divorce.”
  2. Divorce always results in change within the family. Some of those changes can be challenging. Others will be beneficial and create a more peaceful environment for your children. It is important to address these issues. Remind the kids that the family is changing in some ways, but change is an inevitable part of life and not necessarily bad. Let your children see that everything around us keeps changing. “You grow bigger every year. Seasons change, clothing styles change, your school classes change. Sometimes it takes a while to get used to changes, like when you get a new teacher or try a new sport. In time you may come to like these new changes. Let’s give it a try.”

When is it Parental Estrangement and when is it Parental Alienation?

Read more and learn the difference.


As challenging as it may be, always keep from pointing fingers or blaming their other parent when talking to the kids about the divorce. It bears repeating: they love both parents and shouldn’t be judged nor shamed for this. Remember, it’s your divorce, not theirs!

After Divorce: Coparent with Mindful Love and Attention to Support Your Kids!

  1. Prioritize spending time and attention with your children. With all the stress in your life, it’s easy to overlook your kid’s need for stability and security. The best source for that support is you. It’s easy to take solace with friends or bury yourself in work, but keep in mind that your children need your support more than ever right now. Your love and attention are the most valuable resources you can share with them. Make sure you are generous with both!
  2. Let your kids still be kids. That means never burdening them with adult responsibilities beyond their age level. Your children should not become your messengers. Use texts or online scheduling tools for that! They are not your confidants either. Contact coparenting coaches and counselors for vital support you need. Never share adult content with them, as tempting as it may be, even with your teens. It halts their childhood innocence and throws them into your parental drama. Their brains aren’t developed enough to digest it. And they certainly can’t fix your damaged relationship. So, it’s not only foolish, it’s selfish.

Remember, divorce imposes changes within the family that your children never asked for. With these suggestions in mind, support your kids in ways that deepen your relationship at a time when they need it most. They’ll thank you when they are grown!

Notes

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach. She’s the author of How Do I Tell the Kids About The Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide To Preparing Your Children – With Love! To get her coaching services, programs, e-courses, and other valuable resources along with her free ebook on co-parenting success strategies, visit her website here.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*At SAS, we support same-sex marriage. For simplicity, we may refer to the spouse as “he” or “husband.”

Divorce effects on children by Unsplash

Divorce Effects on Children

When considering the consequences of divorce, effects on children are perhaps the most impactful and far-reaching. Children are the innocent victims—the bystanders who get swept into the aftermath of a decision they had no say in. And, while some children rebound on the merits of inherent resilience, others struggle greatly, even into adulthood.

Divorce is never easy. It comes at a high cost across the board—emotionally, financially, socially, physically. Spouses are so focused on what is driving their own discontent and how to assuage or escape it that children often become collateral damage. Everything, it seems, is about whether, when, and how to divorce. Effects on children are too often an afterthought, dealt with (if at all) after the divorce is all said and done.

The big question often explored more in hindsight than at the moment is whether staying together is better at all costs.

How Parental Conflict Harms Children

The unequivocal consensus among psychological experts is that the single most important factor that harms children of divorce is continual parental conflict. Children become damaged when parents fight in front of them, over them, and through them. It literally changes who they are and how they process the world.

The challenge in deciding whether to divorce comes when the homefront is so contentious that constant conflict is a given. In these cases, children do not fare better for having their parents stay together.

For example, a report by Pew Social Trends explains that, while children of divorce are more inclined to one day divorce, conflict is a huge influencer. It turns out that children have a better chance at marital success if their high-conflict parents divorced.

The point is, the immersion in constant conflict does the most damage.

But, even when choosing the better of two bad choices, there is no denying the divorce effects on children. And “high conflict” can follow and damage children even after the divorce.

It should come as no surprise that the first year or two after a divorce are the toughest on children. Imagine that your world is thrown off its axis. Imagine the constancy of even the simplest, most predictable components of your life being tossed into the darkness of chaos, change, and insecurity.

Now imagine having no say in how you navigate that darkness. You don’t know how you got here. You don’t know how to get out. And you don’t know how to recognize, let alone deal with, all you are feeling.

Young Children and the Effects of Divorce

Another “no surprise” is that children of different ages process divorce differently. And the far-reaching effects of divorce, such as high-risk behaviors, are influenced by a child’s age at the time of his/her parents’ divorce.

Young children, for example, may have difficulty processing the idea of having two homes and having to go between them. They may also wonder if their parents will stop loving them, just as their parents have stopped loving one another. They haven’t yet developed the cognitive ability to separate the two concepts.

In an effort to make sense of their world, grade school children may start looking for a place to lay blame. And too often that blame turns inward to themselves. Was this my fault? Are Mommy and Daddy mad at me for something I did?

Teenagers and the Effects of Divorce

Teenagers, on the other hand, have a lot more cognitive development under their belts. But they still have a lot of flux in their emotional development and expression. They are more inclined to feel stressed, angry, and resentful and to place blame on one or both parents.

The successful transition for children of any age really pivots on the behavior and choices of the parents.

Swearing there is a place in Hell for your Ex is akin to sending the same message to your children. They are, don’t forget, a blend of both of you. And, when you hate the other parent in any capacity, your children will subconsciously assume you hate the same in them.

And that unthinkable, albeit unintended, judgment upon a child is life-altering. It destroys their self-esteem and sets them up for mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and extreme emotional sensitivity.

It also lays the groundwork for loyalty conflict and cognitive dissonance. When parents fight in front of or through their kids, they impose an unspoken demand for the children to take sides. They may even divide the children in their loyalties, as if the children were material assets.

Some children are able to detach from the fighting and declare neutrality. But others internalize it. And the mental state of trying to hold two incompatible, contradictory thoughts at once becomes painful and unsustainable.

In an effort to alleviate the discomfort of cognitive dissonance, children will often “choose” one parent over the other. The parental alienation of the other parent has no justification. But the mind simply can’t survive that kind of mental conflict.

Far better to learn how to co-parent. If you absolutely hate your ex, you can still ensure that your children know you love that part of them that came from the other parent. And, by committing to conflict-free parenting post-divorce, you will give them the greatest chance of exercising their resilience.

Signs that Divorce and Conflict are Affecting Your Child

There are so many divorce effects on children, each worthy of and warranting its own spotlight. But here are some additional effects to keep in mind and look for as you navigate your own (potential) divorce:

  • Increased behavioral problems, especially in homes and divorces with high conflict.
  • Decreased interest in social activity. Children of divorce are more likely to feel insecure and alone in their experience and may therefore isolate.
  • Difficulty adapting to change. Even the most amicable, cooperative divorces involve change for everyone. But most involve a lot of uncomfortable change—residential moves, financial hardship, school changes, remarriages, and step-/blended families, etc.
  • Destructive and risky behavior like alcohol/drug use and sexual activity.
  • Decreased academic performance. Constantly changing family dynamics understandably leave children confused and distracted, making it difficult for them to concentrate on studies.
  • Increased health problems. Mental health issues include anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, anger issues, and feelings of overwhelming stress, pressure, and guilt. The internalization of symptoms can lead to somatic disorder, which may present as sleep problems, headaches, stomachaches, and tension. This somatic symptom disorder may become especially evident if parental conflict is high at the “switching hour” when children go from one parent to the other.
  • Decreased faith in marriage and family, and therefore an increased risk of divorce later in life.

The responsibility of parenthood assumes a prioritization of the child over the parent. But, when high conflict, abuse, or addiction occurs in the home, everyone gets lost in the fight for emotional (and sometimes physical) survival.

Tragically, parents often return to emotional childhood themselves. And, if they don’t learn conflict-free parenting post-divorce, they will set up a history that is destined to repeat itself.

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice not to do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional, financial, and often complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you and your future. Join our tribe now

 

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS, we respect same-sex marriages; however, for the sake of simplicity, in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.