Parenting through Divorce
In Family Law, there is one phrase repeated throughout the divorce process when the couple has children: "for the best interest of the children." What's in the best interest of the children is often a point of contention in divorce- mostly because the parties divorcing are angry with one another and can agree on very little. They each have their own perceptions about what would be in the children's best interest- and typically it has something to do with the children remaining with them. Divorcing couples, enraged with one another, cease to see the other party clearly- as someone that they once loved and with whom they created a family. In the divorce process, children are frequently used as pawns in a financial and manipulative chess game. What's in the best interest of the children is never to be placed in the middle. So, if you're getting divorced, here are a few rules of thumb that would be best for BOTH of you to follow:
Get some help. Divorce is really tough for most people, so each of you needs some support. Sometimes when a couple has mutually agreed that divorce is the best option for all considered, the family can attend divorce counseling sessions together. When the process is more contentious, it is important that both co-parents have their own therapists and that the children are provided a therapist to work with as well. Play therapists are wonderful for children as play therapy bypasses the need to verbally articulate one's feelings. The use of movement, play, sound and art all enable children to communicate their feelings about the divorce process in ways that come naturally to them.
Find out what's in the best interest of your children. Have your team of advocates help you identify what's in the best interest of your children. Both the therapists who are caring for the co-parents and the clinician providing treatment for the children can assist the family in forward movement- often far better than the co-parents themselves, because the members of the team can remain relatively objective during the process while the co-parents are not likely to be so.
Stick to the ground rules. When you make the decision to separate, make some ground rules and put them in writing. Both co-parents can sign the document, committing both to an equitable process. While it's not a guarantee, couples who create and stick to a set of mutually-agreed upon rules tend to raise healthier children and develop a better co-parenting relationship over time.
Hold a regular meeting of the minds. If you are able to do so, commit to meeting as a group at least once per quarter: co-parents and their therapists can review how things have proceeded, and evaluate the strategies and rules currently in place. Should things need to be changed the group can brainstorm together and revise agreements much more easily than if co-parents try to do so on their own.
Remember that it's not personal. Despite the fact that you may have been left, the divorce is not about you. Divorce is the result of a relationship that comes to an end. It need not be about the death of love, or the loss of attraction, or the identification of a better lover or anything lese. It may simply reflect the end of the relationship. Consider this: you live next door to someone you really like and enjoy. After many years of happy friendship, your friend gets a job transfer and moves to another state. During the first year apart, perhaps you email or send Christmas packages. Over time, the communications become less frequent and eventually, you just don't have contact anymore. If you're like most folks, you don't take the end of that relationship personally. You simply accept that sometimes relationships end for a variety of reasons. They end when there just isn't enough contact, communication, or motivation to maintain the relationship. Marriage is really no different. It's not personal, it's just divorce.