January is “Child-Centered Divorce Awareness Month”
Children are profoundly affected by their parents’ divorce, no matter how old they are or what the circumstances. And many children do act out and drop out. Others put on a brave face but are crushed on the inside and can’t ever trust that they themselves will have a “happily ever after.”
No one starts a divorce with the intention of hurting their children. Quite the opposite is true. All parents want the best for their children. Most are deeply worried about the effect of their divorce on their kids. Somehow, though, even the parents with the best intentions don’t see the pitfalls along the way, and once they’re in, they can’t climb out.
What is a child-centered divorce? It’s one where the parents make sacrifices for their children’s sake, keeping the children’s interests top of mind at all times, and where every professional involved is seeking the best outcomes for the children. This is hard work. At a time when emotions are running high, most of us get hijacked by our survival brains. We feel attacked. We attack back in self-defense automatically, without considering that our children are in the middle of the battlefield.
Want a child-centered divorce? As a parent educator, therapist for children, and divorce coach, I have seen many of the pitfalls. Here are three ways to avoid them.
- Don’t even think about hiring that “shark” lawyer. Choose a child-centered process and team from the very beginning. Collaborative Divorce has been shown to have the best outcomes for children. A supportive team keeps the conflict level low and the kids out of the middle.
- Whatever process you’re using, get some coaching to help you to handle your own emotions and negotiate with wisdom, generosity and compassion. It doesn’t matter who gets the car. It matters that your children have two parents who are calm, centered and have the bandwidth to be able to fully attend to them. You want your spouse to be the best parent they can be. You have the power to make peace instead of war.
- Keep reminding yourself of the long-term goals. When you are looking back at your divorce in ten years, you want to know that you navigated this difficult time with integrity. Take care of your stress, keep agreements, get to a settled new schedule for the children as soon as possible. Practice forgiveness. Assume your ex has good intentions and that you have common values.
It’s never too late to have a child-centered divorce. Even if you are deeply entrenched in a court battle, you do have the power to get back to what is best for the children…and it’s never their parents fighting over them.