I’m 45, four years into a divorce, and the father of twin 11-year-olds. Based in NYC, I can assure you I’ve seen and heard it all. So many divorce stories share a few common ingredients and experience the same aftermath. Here are five things divorcing parents should think about:
1. Don’t Rely Solely on Advice from Friends
Your friends are not divorce experts and are more likely to give you their opinions rather than concrete advice. Your best bet is to connect with others that are either in a divorce or have experienced a divorce. They understand what you’re going through and can provide relevant advice based on actual experiences. Divorce is rated the second most stressful life event, so there is a huge benefit to connect with others that have felt that emotion.
2. Do Your Best to Stay out of Court
I’ve been to matrimonial and family court more times than I care to admit, and I can assure you it’s the most negative place on earth. These courtrooms are incubators for hostility and controversy. If you are having issues communicating with your ex, perhaps enroll the help of parents or a trusted source to simply mediate and help you both overcome the hostility so you can move towards an amicable resolution. A long, drawn out litigation will certainly have long-lasting negative effects on your children. Both parties must be willing to stay out of court, so if your ex isn’t cooperating, find someone close to him/her that can point out all the negatives of litigation.
3. Don’t Publicly Disparage Your Ex…Ever!
As much as you may dislike your ex, remember that person is the mother or father of your kid(s). Say that last sentence out loud a few times. Every time you publicly shame your ex, think about what can happen. The rumor mill ensues, kids overhear their parents gossiping, friendships and possibly business relationships can be ruined, and, most importantly, you’re kids can suffer. While you may be angry and upset at your ex today, as your children grow, you’ll need to be able to communicate. And just remember…your divorce may be today’s story, but it won’t be in a few weeks. No need to fuel the fire.
4. You Are Never Fully Divorced
OK, so on paper you are. But, you share the most valuable possession in the world and are responsible to raise your kids to the best of your abilities. This will keep you connected forever. As hard as it may be, and as emotional as you are right now, keep in mind that your ex is a crucial part of your children’s lives, and being able to co-parent is paramount to your children’s happiness.
5. Don’t Use Your Kids as Messengers
Sounds pretty obvious, but we are all guilty of it. I sure am. In a way, it’s virtually impossible, but you can certainly avoid undo stress on your kids. The most common abuse of this is discussing parenting schedules. Kids don’t need to relay this information, not when you have a host of calendar and scheduling options. We all have phones; sync up with your ex and alleviate the back and forth over simple items. Less conversations with your ex could lead to a smoother relationship moving forward.