Kristi truly believes that growing up is harder for children of divorce. She and I both agree that having two sets of rules , one set for your home and one set for your ex’s home, is just one thing that makes their lives more challenging. I’m not sure there’s anyway to avoid to this – my ex and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on all the parenting rules when we were married! But there is one very small thing you can do that Kristi thinks makes it easier for kids. Here’s Kristi:
A lot of people, when they get divorced, they call their ex-spouse by his name. When they talk to their children, they say, “You need to tell Tom this.” I never refer to my ex by his name. He is their dad and I call him their dad all the time. I think that says to my kids that I respect that he is their dad. He always will be their dad and they know then he’s never going to be replaced, even if my fiancé moves in here. I’ve done that since the day we moved out, even on the days when I didn’t like him at all. He’s still dad.
Your children pick up on things like that. Any kid that’s been through divorce, they either come out of it and they’re OK or they implode. I’ve seen the kids that make it and I’ve seen the kids that just struggle every single day with it and a lot of it has to do with the moms.
When I was a child, I’ll be honest, mom was the person that is the emotional link to life. Dads are strong, dads are cool but moms are the ones that keep everything together. We’re the glue and if the glue unravels and becomes a tormented, angry bitch from divorce, what’s happening to the kids is probably a direct mimic of what’s happening to her.
The Divorce Coach Says
I like Kristi’s decision to refer to her ex as “dad” – it seems such a small concession and yet I bet it speaks volumes to the kids. I think I usually refer to my ex as “dad” to my kids but I know sometimes it’s “your dad.” I’m going to work on dropping the “your.” How do you refer to your ex when you’re talking to your children about him?
I think in many cases, ex’s turn out to be better dads after divorce than during the marriage. I’m reminded of Carolyn’s story and in particular that she said her ex was “a lousy husband but a great dad.” I do believe a key factor in successful parenting is looking for your ex’s strengths and that may mean letting go of a lot of history. Something that’s not always easy to do especially when you’re the one enforcing homework and time at Dad’s is fun activities.