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The Happy Childhood After Divorce: Myth or Reality?

I got divorced a very long time ago…11 years this past March, actually.  The State of Utah had instituted at some time prior the requirement that parents who are divorcing take a divorce orientation and parenting in divorce class.  They’re technically 2 classes, but they teach them one after the other in a 3 hour block.  My divorce was extremely traumatic for me, but I remember that class being a bright spot.  Not because I actually REMEMBER any of it, just what the takeaway was for me:  My kids did not have to end up being a statistic.  They could turn out just fine, being totally well-adjusted, even though their dad and I were no longer married.

The classes started out with the terrifying statistics about how kids of divorce have a higher chance of being drug addicts, having poor self-esteem, acting out, getting poor grades, and on and on and on.  The parade of horrors of kids in divorce, if you will.  But then the kicker–what can I do as a parent to keep this from happening?Security blanket

If you google this, you’re going to find a number of great articles.  I’m pulling my information from this Psychology Today website article, by Wendy Paris.  First off, what children need to thrive:

  • Children do well when they have good relationships with both parents or primary caregivers, adults who basically get along.  But those parents don’t need to be married or living in the same house.
  • Children benefit from emotionally stable parents—adults who are recuperated enough, in the case of divorce, to focus on the basic job of parenting, including establishing stability, exercising fair discipline, providing love and being emotionally responsive.  But those parents need not be married or living in the same house.
  • Children need adequate resources such as food, safe housing, and social support.  But they don’t need a mansion with every toy available, and those resources can be provided by parents who are not married or living in the same house.

Ms. Paris’ info comes from a 20 year study done regarding children of divorce, that was conducted by child development expert and Cambridge University professor Michael Lamb.  Solid data, not just Wishes and Dreams.  So what can you do to make sure that your kids are in the 80% of divorced kids who turn out just fine (and yes, that actually is the number–more are fine than not)?  Back to Ms. Paris’ advice:

Parents make home

 

Co-parenting.  It’s not a competition between two homes. It’s a collaboration of the parents doing what’s best for the kids.  –Heather Hetchler, www.cafesmom.com

 

Five Principles for Positive Co-Parenting:

  1. Because we know that high conflict between the parents is one of the most damaging experiences for children, we can foster cooperation with our co-parent, and work to squash conflict.
  2. Because we know that children benefit from stability, we can focus on establishing new routines that work in our newly structured lives.
  3. Without a spouse around to blame for, well, everything, we can let divorce challenge us to be a better, more focused parent and to bring our personal strengths to our child-rearing.  We also can look for ways that the very characteristics of our ex that annoyed us in marriage (“He’s such a neat freak!” or “All she cares about is hiking!”) may benefit our children; how great to have one parent who likes the outdoors.
  4. We can create positive moments for our children that have nothing to do with the state of their parents’ love life. We can foster engagement in outside activities and with other supportive adults.
  5. Because we understand that being emotionally present for our children rests on our own recuperation, we can prioritize taking care of the care-givers, ourselves.

This requires two parents who are actually willing to put aside their own pettiness and hatefulness for the Other.  If 80% of kids turn out all right, there must be a LOT of parents who are capable of doing this.  Which means YOU CAN TOO.

In my practice of law, I pretty much only dealt with the ones who were at each other’s throats; they were either deeply entrenched in their own desires in the divorce, or they were trying to enforce the decree they already had in place.  I really wanted to write something positive in my blog today, and after my experiences with other people’s divorces, my own in the very early stages, and my husband’s, I needed a break from conflict.  And ya know what?  There’s a lot of good out there that can be reality in a family with divorced parents.  It can be a reality in your life as well…  Happily Ever After, in real life, without the ideal.

That’s something to smile about :).

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fsherryischerry%2Fvideos%2Fvb.100001002740529%2F984276941615721%2F%3Ftype%3D3&show_text=0&width=400

(If you haven’t seen this video of a little child named Tiana discussing co-parenting with her mother, you really ought to…and a little child shall lead them…)

 

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