Raising Mentally Healthy Children After Divorce. After my divorce in 1991, I thought I was the worst person in the world. After 9 years of marriage, investing emotionally in two families who cared about us for a total of 16 years, and a three-year-old daughter who meant the world to the whole family, I decided to end my marriage and seriously continue to Individuate and Differentiate. A process of becoming the individual I knew I needed to become and differentiate from the family who raised me and husband who I had been coupled up with for most of my young adult life. My main concern was for our daughter who was the sweetest and most understanding little person. I normalized the process of divorce for her despite the emotions that come with the devastation. No one likes divorce. Even the people who initiate it go through guilt and shame over the decision.
As Marriage Counselor and Family Therapist, I know one thing is certain, your children will less likely act out behaviorally and be less stressed out and emotionally damaged if you and your “ex” act civilly toward each other throughout the entire process and into the future. Here are tips to ensure successful lives for your children so they can grow up to be functioning adults:
1. Be the mature person you know you are. If you continue to act like a child and cannot resolve conflict in a mature manner consider not having any more children…..for their sake. And make sure you put money away for them so they can seek therapy to overcome the damage you’ve bestowed upon them.
2. Don’t call each other your “ex”. Say my daughter’s/son’s mother/father in a caring tone. Removes any kind of negative or hostile connotation.
3. Divide the expenses fairly and don’t think anyone “owes” each other extra. Remember financial resources are to help your child and better their future. Whoever has the additional resources at any given time give freely knowing if the other had additional funds they would do the same. If you can’t or are unwilling to think like this then….make sure you put money away for them so they can see therapy to overcome the damage you’ve bestowed upon them.
4. Think in terms of “we” so your child won’t feel a sense of divide.
5. Don’t put your romantic needs before your child’s well being. Don’t push your new love interest onto your children. Just because you want to move on doesn’t mean they are ready to nor do they want to. Give them the choice to move forward at their own pace….when given choices children typically choose what’s reasonable and best for them. Again….if you push your own interests over theirs…..make sure you have a therapy fund for them to utilize so they can process their hostility toward you when they grow up.
Keep in mind if you want your children to be successful in life role model what that looks like. Becoming independent, self-sufficient, and responsible is a good start. I am happy and proud to report my now 28-year-old graduated from USC Magna Cum Laude in 2006, graduated Law School in 2014 and is working in a field she enjoys. Despite the unknown and uncertainties of being a single parent, there was always one thing I was certain of and that was not interfering with the ability of my child becoming a functional adult. Be supportive of their feelings, help them make the right choices, and be a good person to their mother/father as you loved them at one time to create a family with each other.
If you would like help in keeping your relationship amicable and developing a cohesive co-parenting plan that puts your child’s well being in high priority please call me at (858) 735-1139.