January is International Child-Centered Divorce Month. This month was chosen to recognize the impact divorce has on children because more divorces are filed for in January than any other month.
If you’re having relationship challenges, January is a good month to make time to find a therapist to talk to. A good relationship therapist can help couples find their way back to each other. Couples therapy is emotionally challenging. It’s difficult for to face what we might need to work on in ourselves.
And divorce is very difficult as well. Most people say it’s more painful than they ever thought it would be. And then, developing a co-parenting relationship with an ex-spouse isn’t easy. Becoming a co-parent takes conscious effort. It can be a steep and tough learning curve to grow as a person and to consciously put your ego aside in service of your children’s emotional needs.
A co-parenting relationship is unique in that somehow, you need to adapt and step back from the emotional intensity and the intimacy of your past marriage relationship and move towards an amicable, more businesslike relationship. This change in the relationship doesn’t take place in a linear fashion. The familiar disappointments and feelings that were of your past marriage relationship will ebb and flow. It’s a painful stretch to become an amicable ex: a lesson in responsible behavior and emotional generosity.
To aim for a child-centered divorce is to aim to not put children in the middle of personal adult situations. Using children as pawns to hurt an ex-partner is damaging to their emotional well-being.
In honor of Child-Centered Divorce Month, put your ego aside and your children’s well-being first.
Many people take the concept of co-parenting seriously. They strive to establish a workable co-parenting relationship with good emotional and physical boundaries.
Yet, other people are tangled in their own fears, defenses, anger and emotional immaturity. This tangle of anger and painful emotions usually signals there are unhealed childhood wounds that need attention.
If you’re bitter and obsessive about your ex-spouse, it’s possible to feel better. A good therapist can help you process your emotional pain. Use the health insurance you already pay for. Look online or ask friends: couch shop on the phone until you find someone to whom you can relate.
Putting your children in the middle of adult decisions and conflicts hurts them more than it hurts your ex-spouse.
Consistently interfering with your child’s participation in sports or in Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts because their event falls on your visitation day and you won’t drive them over there, it’s self-centered and caters to your own wounded inner child.
The template of your relationship with your ex-spouse, your adult attachment style, is rooted to how your family relationships were in your family of origin.
If you were continuously angry, depressed and rejecting, or afraid or avoidant of your ex-spouse, it is likely your current feelings have their roots in your childhood.
Think about how it felt to be in your childhood home.
Was it warm and loving? Was it cold emotionally, although adequate for your physical needs? Are you unconsciously recreating these feelings in your adult home?
Questions to ask yourself:
Do you think you are still displaying negative isolating behavior?
Do you still feel angry and alone?
You CAN break the cycle.
Love is a verb. Love is behavior. Love is not just a feeling.
Change your behavior now and do the longer-term work on understanding and managing your feelings and thoughts.
The classic The Rights of Children by Lois V. Nightingale, PhD, printed below, will help guide you in what your children need during divorce.
The Rights of Children
Children have the right to:
1. Continue to love both parents without guilt or disapproval (subtle or overt) by either parent or other relatives.
2. Be repeatedly reassured that the divorce is not their fault.
3. Be reassured they are safe and their needs will be provided for.
4. Have a special place for their own belongings at both parents' residences.
5. Visit both parents regardless of what the adults in the situation feel, and regardless of convenience, or money situations.
7. Not be messengers between parents; not to carry notes, legal papers, money or requests between parents.
8. Not make adult decisions, including where they will live, where and when they will be picked up or dropped off, or who is to blame.
9. Love as many people as they choose without being made to feel guilty or disloyal. (Loving and being loved by many people is good for children; there is not a limit on the number of people a child can love.)
10. Continue to be kids, i.e. not take on adult duties and responsibilities or become a parent's special confidant, companion or comforter (i.e. not to hear repeatedly about financial problems or relationship difficulties).
11. Stay in contact with relatives, including grandparents and special family friends.
12. Choose to spend at least one week a year living apart from their custodial parent.
13. Not be on an airplane, train or bus on major holidays for the convenience of adults.
14. Have teachers and school informed about the new status of their family.
15. Have time with each parent doing activities that create a sense of closeness and special memories.
16. Have a daily and weekly routine that is predictable and can be verified by looking at a schedule on a calendar in a system understandable to the child. (For instance: a green line represents the scheduled time with dad, and a purple line represents the scheduled time with mom, etc.)
17. Participate in sports, special classes or clubs that support their unique interests, and have adults that will get them to these events, on time without guilt or shame.
18. Contact the absent parent and have phone conversations without eavesdropping or tape-recording.
19. Ask questions and have them answered respectfully with age-appropriate answers that do not include blaming or belittlements of anyone.
20. Be exposed to both parents' religious ideas (without shame), hobbies, interests and tastes in food.
21. Have consistent and predictable boundaries in each home. (Although the rules in each house may differ significantly, each parent's set of rules needs to be predictable within their household.)
22. Be protected from hearing adult arguments and disputes.
23. Have parents communicate (even if only in writing) about their medical treatment, psychological treatment, educational issues, accidents and illnesses.
24. Not be interrogated upon return from the other parent's home or asked to spy in the other parent's home.
25. Own pictures of both parents.
26. Choose to talk with a special adult about their concerns and issues (counselor, therapist or special friend).
Become a conscious person, in touch with your authentic self.
Become a conscious parent.