Life After Divorce – Thriving In The Future

If you are like most parents, you want your children to be successful at school, in their extracurricular activities and with their socially with their friends. Prior to your family reorganization, like most parents, you probably spent enormous amounts of time, energy and money attempting to ensure your children’s success. You may even have had the tendency to try to provide those things for your children which you wanted as a child. You spent time helping your children with their homework and school projects; you have taken them to soccer, baseball, dance, swim meets and other activities; and you have probably spent a little more than your budget allowed to ensure your children had all that you could provide. Life is about to change dramatically.

During and after the family reorganization, you will not have the time, energy nor money you once had for your children. This fact alone will typically result in feelings of guilt and inadequacy. You do not have to subscribe to those feelings. Many of us in the mental health profession believe heavily involved parenting is many times over-parenting. Therefore, if you can not do what you once were doing, you may be right where you need to be.

What you may not have realized is when you load up your children with all of the goodies, the extras in life prior to your family reorganization, you are also loaded up the pressure and stress on both yourself and your children:

Previous Pressure and Stress on Your Children
If your children did not live up to your standards or appreciate your “sacrifices,” it was an opportunity for them to see themselves as not good enough, not measuring up, not trying hard enough, or simply failing you. This type of pressure is extremely fear-filled because children’s normal internal desires are to please their parents, to make their parents proud of them, and to demonstrate to their parents the kind of “adults” they are becoming.

Previous Pressure and Stress on Yourself
Financial and time requirements to provide all of the goodies and extras for your children.

The normal day-to-day pressures of an intact family are hard. But now, in addition to those “normal” pressures you will be adding the stress, the strain, the financial impact, and the emotional upheaval of being engaged in the adversarial family court system. You can well imagine the pressure cooker that is about ready to explode. In many families it does explode. Almost every day you can read in the paper or see on TV the outcome of too much pressure on a person going through the family court system; suicides, murders, kidnaps and all other types of behaviors from previous “regular” and “normal” parents. It just proves the point that when you put regular normal families, with regular normal daily stresses of raising their children, and add to those stressors the confusion, frustration, anger and hurt which the adversarial family court system exacerbates, the “regular and normal” person can become irregular and abnormal–something is going to blow.

My purpose here is to help you understand the stresses and pressures you are feeling are very real, and you need to do something about them before they do something to you. And now is the time to do something. Now is the time for you to take time to listen to your children. Now is the time to get to know your children as they really are, learning:

What do they like to do?

What are their concerns, short term and long term concerns?

What makes them worry?

What excites them?

What new fantasies and dreams do they have for their future?

When all the court hearings are over, when all of the emotions have calmed down to a dull roar, when you are no longer stressed daily about what kind of time are you going to have with your children, you still need to be honest with our children.

Since you know your family reorganization is NOT your children’s fault, you will want to repeatedly reassure them they were not responsible in any way for the parental breakup.

If your children have questions, ensure you are available physically, mentally and emotionally to hear them out. This is NOT a time to fix their problems, it is a time to listen with an open mind and an open heart as to what are their concerns, worries, fears and expectations.

Do not be overly possessive of your children, they too need time to adjust to the new situation. A court decree can not and does not end your obligation and responsibility as a parent. You need to make every attempt to play a vital part in the lives of your children, no matter who has primary physical custody.

Since the developmental needs of your children will vary with age, maturity and circumstances, you need to be flexible and allow for modification of the initial schedule as the needs of your children change and according to your children’s ages, circumstances and interests. You also need to accept the fact that children need different doses of mom or dad at different developmental stages of their lives. You need to be sensitive and accommodating to your children’s changing needs. This is about their adjustment and growth, not yours.

The older they become, the more opportunities will arise to allow them to make more of their own decisions. Let them learn from their decisions and let them make mistakes. Allow your children to own the consequences of their decisions, actions and behaviors. By do this you will be teaching your children they have ownership over their lives.

Your natural tendency will be to circle the wagons and protect your children (more from perceived issues rather than real ones). However, children need the opportunity to GROW through the family reorganization just as much as you need to grow through it. And, grow through it they will, IF you don’t get in the way of their growth.

Family reorganization often leads to financial pressures on both parents. If there is a financial crisis, your first impulse may be to keep your children from realizing it–after all, you would rather make sacrifices yourself than to ask your children to do so. However, the atmosphere will be healthier if you are frank with your children and allow them to also make sacrifices. Allowing your children to participate in financial sacrifices will allow them to feel they are an important part of the restructuring process. Family reorganization is family rebuilding–rebuilding traditions, expectations and structure.

Sadly, there are some things which your children will have to do on their own. They will have to learn to accept the reality of the family reorganization in their own time. They will eventually have to learn how to stay out of your parental conflicts. They will deal with their grief, anger, sense of loss and blaming issues, although some may need outside therapeutic assistance. They will finally accept the family reorganization is permanent. And probably the most difficult, they will take the family reorganization experience and develop their own realistic goals, expectations, wants and desires for future relationships

In my family we do not believe in “problems,” only solutions to situations. In other words, any difficulty can be overcome–a lesson which you will want to teach your children. When your children make mistakes, and there will be plenty of them, it is an opportunity for you to show your unconditional support and love of them. After all, your children’s mistakes are really no more than an opportunity for you to mentor them, to offer suggestions on how they can handle this and similar situations in their future.

By letting your children face the consequences of their own mistakes (without over-parenting them), you will be helping them grow into a trustworthy adults with good judgment skills.

Allowing your children to make mistakes and then bear the consequences of their own actions will be hard. However, coupled with unconditional support and love, doing so will allow for them to start trusting you in a whole new way. When doing this, you will be instilling in them the confidence of accomplishment, the value of ownership–the true meaning of integrity.

In preparing your children for the future, what could be more important than teaching your children the meaning of integrity, teaching them how to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions, and the meaning and thrill of living a congruent life? After all, isn’t that what parenting is all about?

The end results of this type of parenting will be children who, as they continue to grow and develop, grow up to have integrity, to face their life with confidence and congruency. And with the knowledge they always will have a trusted parent to go to no matter what happens in their lives, and that parent is YOU.