It’s not divorce itself that adversely affects children but rather how you and your ex handle the divorce and treat each other afterwards.
My current guest, Fiona McGlynn is a child of divorce and a living testament that divorce doesn’t have to be a life-changing, traumatic event. Here’s Fiona:
As children, we didn’t feel as much of an impact because it seemed that our parents were behaving relatively normally.
There were changes and there was upsets, but divorce in my family was never made out to be a horrible, bad thing. It was something that happened, but in dealing with their own happiness, my parents were really able to keep things quite normal for us. They were able to help us through whatever it was that we were going through at the time I think because they were quite balanced at that point themselves, having walked through it all.
I think one thing they could have done differently would be just managing their communication with us about each other.
I think, for instance, in sharing what was going on in their lives they could inadvertently share beliefs about each other that left us a little bit conflicted. While communication was really good, keeping the remarks and the content really neutral is quite important.
I had a party one time in high school and my mom had gone out of town and so my clever thought was, “Oh well, mom’s out of town. Why don’t I throw a little party at my house?” My dad was going to be the one just checking in on us. I thought, “I’ll get him to just call in,” because that would be really clever.
In any case, I think our neighbors probably called him at some point, because it got out of control and he was immediately there, helping me kick everyone out. The discipline around that where I thought I was being clever in putting on this party, the discipline was very consistent across it too. When it came to this kind of thing, I think they always came to a decision together. They call it co-parenting now. They were still parenting together when it came to things like discipline to serve a consistent framework for my sister and I.
Holidays didn’t change.
They were one of the one things that actually stayed quite similar. In my family the tradition is we get together and play music. I remember my mom was happy to invite my dad and later on both of their respective partners to the dinner and have a lovely evening.
In many ways as a child I felt like this was exciting because you have twice the people to celebrate with. Coming from a smaller family where most of my relatives were over in England, I always wanted a big family and that to me was a real bonus because I got two additional parents and a sister as well.
We do still try to get together. I would say we get together maybe three to four times a year. We are a bit more spread out now. But for instance, my sister graduated a couple of weeks ago and we were all there to celebrate for graduation together. My mom really loves putting on parties and that was something she really took on as a head party organizer.
I think what my parents did very well was they did a lot of self-work. They really dealt with what they were going through personally, whether that was going to friends or family or counselors. They really worked on themselves and who they were. They were dealing with themselves and making sure that they were complete.
I think it’s easy to get hung up on all the divorce studies and the various statistics that link negative child behavior with divorce. They can really make you fearful of divorce and while divorce is a major upheaval, the reality is that you and your ex have complete control over the effects of your divorce on your child. YOUR children don’t have to be the children in the studies.
Yes … it does takes two and I know that there are some situations where this is a completely unrealistic expectation. However, I do believe that the vast majority of us are reasonable adults who can do this. It doesn’t mean we can do this perfectly or do it well all the time. There will be times when you trip or stumble and when that happens, you can remind yourself of your goal and you can apologize. Ask for a do-over. And when your ex stumbles, it doesn’t mean you have to react or overreact … give them a do-over … you have a choice.
Based on her experience as a child of divorce, Fiona McGlynn has written a beautiful book, i and the Great Divide, aimed at helping children understand that their parents’ divorce is not their fault.
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