For the Kids: 4 Steps to a Kinder DivorceApril 28, 2015
By Amanda Alpert Knight
I never thought I would get divorced. I never thought I would be in a position to write an article like this.
How do you divorce kindly? How do you divorce in a way that ensures your children are okay, or even better than okay? How do you divorce in a way that each parent can maintain their sense of self, their pride, their personal well-being, and their ability to be the best parent they can be?
I’m not an expert—my divorce and parenting through it is a work in progress. But through the process of separation and divorce, I’ve learned a lot about what to do, what not to do, and what we can do to not only put our children first but to ensure that the process allows each parent to remain whole and to be set up for success. That is the key to ensuring the livelihood of our children. As my ex and I make our way through this process, I see a bright future for both of us individually and for our children thanks to these four key things we’re focusing on.
- Don’t give up on therapy during the separation and divorce process.
Even after you both decide to divorce, continue to see a therapist or coach to work through issues. This process should focus not on the past and who did what, but on the present and what is happening. This professional is a neutral figure who can help significantly along the way. They don’t take sides and they don’t try to solve or figure out how you got to where you are, but they can help you figure out how to strategize moving forward.
- Continue communication.
Because your children are involved, you can’t stop communicating with your ex. Figure out what the best methods of communication and scheduling are for each of you and be willing to compromise. You each might have different ways of doing things and you need to find a happy medium. There are several shared calendar apps available, like Google Calendars. Use technology to assist in scheduling and communication but stay consistent.
Agree to share all information about the children (schools, childcare, afterschool programs, friends, etc.) with one another. No one should be left in the dark. There is no advantage to one parent trying to be the “superior” parent. And when other parents see you, as exes, being cooperative and supportive of one another, they gain so much respect and admiration for you.
- Keep a family dinner night.
While I don’t know that this will last forever, we have informally continued to have family dinner nights one or two times a month with just the four of us (my ex, our two kids, and me). I hope we continue this tradition to show our children that we are still a team—we are co-parents who support and love them.
As our children get older, it will also show them that they cannot pit us against one another. We work together as parents—we aren’t silos. This will not be an easy task if and when other partners come into play, but it’s a lofty goal that I hope to maintain.
- Express gratitude.
Thank you goes a long way. I was really bad at this in the beginning of the separation. But it’s important to be thankful for what the other parent does, not only for the children but also indirectly for you. Swallow your pride and say “thanks.”
It takes a lot of strength and determination, but parents can work together to make divorce kind and civil for the kids. Show compassion, cooperation, and support despite this life-altering event.
As an educator and a parent, I’m struck by all of the stories I hear about divorce. I think it’s time for a movement toward Kind Divorce—a movement where we don’t forget that life is short, childhood doesn’t last forever, and what we are teaching our children now will last them a lifetime.
Marriage is difficult and divorce is even harder (as it should be). So put in the effort to make it kind. Your kids, friends, and families will appreciate it.