If you ask any adult child about their parent’s divorce you will never hear one of them say, “you know, I really wish my parents would have told me more about their divorce, “ or “I really wish my parents would have put me in the middle more”. In fact, kids are better off when parents make the conscious decision to insulate them as much as they can from divorce and restructuring.
When you think about insulating your children there are a couple of strategies that can make a huge impact. The choices, actions, and behaviors you take to insulate your children can decrease long-term effects (like adjustment issues or increased anxiety) from divorce or separation. Of course, it’s never the intent of parents to negatively impact their child’s ability to have healthy relationships. Or be a reason that your child’s grades have slipped, or they have distanced themselves from friends – but if restructuring isn’t handled in a helpful way, these circumstances can become overwhelming in a child’s life.
In order to insulate your children from the complexity of the adult world of restructuring, we have a few helpful tools to keep in your back pocket.
Be really intentional about not putting your kids in the middle. The first step is grounding yourself enough to navigate this time of transition. You don’t have to be perfect – just work on being present. Determine your circle of support and lean on them – these are the people in your life you know you can trust and who don’t have any self-interest in your story.
Think of the analogy of when you are on a flight: The first thing you hear is the flight attendant saying, “should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.” That’s exactly what we want you to do. It’s imperative you take care of yourself and your personal needs. Without you being present and calm, it can feel chaotic for you and your children. Your children don’t have adult brains yet, so they don’t yet know how to navigate chaos, as good as you will be able to. Not perfect, just present.
At Parent Team we have identified four foundations that will support your children – if they are your focus point before, during, and post-restructuring.
- Commitment: to working with your child’s other parent and showing up with your best self. By doing this you are recognizing you can’t control your child’s other parent, AND you can choose to control how you act, react, and show up for your children. Showing up with your best self means prioritizing parent mental health. Children need us to show up, and we do that by caring for ourselves first and prioritizing parent mental health.
- Self Awareness and dedication: to set apart your relationship or marital emotions from your parenting. Compartmentalize when you need to wear your mom/dad hat instead of the “ex” spouse or ex-partner hat. And, if you were never in a relationship/partnership with your child’s other parent, a dedication to setting apart any negative or hindering feelings towards that person as an adult, and focusing on them as your child’s other parent.
- Willingness: to create a new relationship with your former spouse/partner or your child’s other parent if you were never in a relationship with them. Moving forward you recognize that you can’t change the past or people. You accept the decisions and choices that were made to get where you are now. Whether you chose them or not (this is SO hard!) You realize and accept that in order for your child to thrive, they need you to control what you can…which are your thoughts, feelings, and actions toward them and their other parent.
- Learning: to put your kids first through restructuring, divorce, or raising children in two homes. Children have a voice when their family restructures, but they don’t have a vote. We insulate children from these adult decisions and want to make sure children are never placed in the middle of parenting decisions. Children can easily get caught in the middle of adult conflict, but by building robust self-awareness and keeping your children in FOCUS and not in the middle, you will be able to provide them their best ability to adjust to life circumstances, and provide for their positive well- being.
When parents choose to keep these things in focus and commit to relearning new behaviors in co-parenting – their children can thrive. It can be hard to envision life beyond this transition, and if you can ask yourself “what do I want my kids to say 20 years down the road about each of their parents – and how we restructured our family?” – it will help move you in a more helpful, nurturing, and positive direction for your kids.
Curious or need more help in navigating your divorce or restructuring? Our Parenting from Two Homes course includes 6 modules to help walk you from: preparing yourself, preparing your kids, navigating conflict and setting boundaries within co-parenting. Check it out here.
Need help in talking with your kids about divorce or separation? Check out our blog: Intention Test as a helpful guide.
Overwhelmed by all the decisions you may have to make in this transition? When you purchase our Parenting From Two Homes course, you get a free Parenting Plan Guide with it! Our guide includes 14 pages of super helpful guidelines while writing your parenting plan.
Want something with more support and the ability to track your emotions?