Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | September 18, 2010

Children of divorce. Your thoughts?

The first couples’ therapist that my (soon to be ex) wife and I went to see specialized in both couples counselling and children’s counselling. During our very first session, while Penny and I were telling her our story, the counsellor said words to the effect: “I don’t believe in staying married for the children. First of all, what are people modeling for them by staying in a bad relationship? The other thing to keep in mind is, just about half of our population comes from divorce. And most people turn out just fine.”

It all made sense at the time, although it also sent up red flags in the back of my mind; here we were in our first session, and already the idea of not staying together was being laid out as a viable option. I sought counselling for help in averting divorce, not having a “good” one.

When it became increasingly clear (after I’d eventually fired the first counsellor for apparently being too focused on divorce, and Penny fired the second for reasons I’ve discussed elsewhere) that Penny would not be participating in trying to save our marriage, I began seeking counselling for myself. And I began to ask friends of mine who were children of divorce: what was your experience? My focus was starting to shift away from “How do I save our marriage?” to “What about the kids?”

The thing is, most people I knew well enough to ask the hard questions had watched their parents divorcing when they (my friends) were in college or just about to enter college. And those whose parents divorced when they were older said that the divorce was rather hard on them (my friends, that is). In at least one case, possibly two, they said, “My parents should have gotten divorced long before they did. It could have saved us all a lot of heartache.”

Okay, so staying together until the kids were “old enough”, and then splitting up didn’t seem like such a good idea.

The counsellor I was seeing on my own was (is) a couples counsellor who took (takes) her job seriously. She seemed to keep current on the peer-reviewed literature, etc. She expressed her concerns about children of divorce not doing as well as children from happy, healthy marriages. I sometimes wonder if it would have made any difference if we’d that counsellor first as a couple, but I must admit… I doubt it.

If you’ve read much of this blog, you know that I’ve reluctantly come to the decision that the marriage can’t be saved, so it’s time to move on. Now my question for you, dear reader, is this:

Were you a child of divorce? Or, did you get divorced with kids?

What was the childhood experience, dealing with divorce? Was it better that your parents (or you) divorced when they (you) did? Would it have been better if the divorce had happened earlier? Later?

And here’s the big one: what piece of advice would you offer a soon-to-be-divorced father of three young boys?

[You may assume, for the time being, that Penny and I will have a 50-50 custody split and live in the same general area.]

By the way, I’m not asking because I’m trying to choose between divorce now versus divorce later. That decision has already been made. (There are factors I haven’t yet mentioned here that will shed some light on this.) Rather, I’m asking because I need to start figuring out *now* how to start building the best possible new future for my sons.

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Responses

  1. I am not the child of divorce. My parents would “threaten” and then not do it. I recall once, when I was in high school, their sitting me down to “announce” divorce. I went off on a diatribe of my own which included, …”about time, no one wants to be part of this drama, and just so you know I’m staying with the house so you can just argue about who *gets* the dogs…” Needless to say, they didn’t and they actually focused on having a decent marriage from that point forward (I’m sure counseling was involved). My dad died when I was 21.

    As a teacher, the best thing for the kids is to put them first no matter what. This kinda, sorta, completely includes romantic partners until the dust settles. The kids of divorce who do best are the ones whose parents still have shared philosophies about parenting, life, and happiness. The best situations are the ones where both parents come to the conference TOGETHER and discuss their child’s needs. That said, even parents who will ask for separate conferences have happier kids because it sends the message that the child is important — that divorce didn’t change that.

    From my outsider view, it’s not the divorce. Kids tell me they get used to two homes, the schedules, etc. It’s being put to the bottom of the pile, the arguing, and the continued anger/hatred that is the issue. It’s when they have to act as intermediary for two people who don’t or won’t communicate that it becomes an issue.

    The worst, of course, being a child who learns to manipulate both parents by “telling tales” of the other household — whether true or not. I’ve seen parents rip each other to shreds in the parking lot (yes, police have been called) over who is spending the night, disciplinary issues, and items purchased. When parenting philosophies are not in sync (rules, discipline, expectations, homework, etc.) then people who were already bitter go completely motherfucking non-linear. No joke.

    So… kids first, establish routines, keep lines of communication open, share bitterness only with blog/counselor/good friends, and don’t fight in front of the kids.

  2. Suzanne got it bang on: kids first, establish routines, communication, choose your moments (and audience) when you have to vent and/or fight.

    There’s a couple of things that I feel made our lives easier post-split. I can’t speak for my ex (moron that he is), but these helped us:

    – connect with other single parent families so that the kids can identify with not having the family make-up that is reflected on tv, etc. It’s meant a lot for The Mook to have friends who also have two homes. And just as supportive for me to be able to have friends who are not partnered.

    – create new traditions. For us, this has meant that The Mook and I do the same thing every single Friday night that we kick off our week together (transition day). We don’t see friends, we don’t make plans. We eat dinner on the couch while watching a movie. She gets to choose the meal and the movie (within reason). Last night was perogies and Pink Panther. Then we went out for ice cream and a walk.

  3. Hm. I don’t know that the fact that my parents are divorced was a precursor to my own, or affected me in that way. At least for me, it didn’t. But I can see how it could.

  4. i am a child of divorce, after a fashion. my parents’ divorce was due to my mother’s severe mental illness, though, so i have to caveat my experience a little. it was just not practical for them to live together anymore, so they split, daddy moved on, etc. not a typical situation.

    however, my ex’s parents divorced four years ago after 35-plus years of marriage. they stayed together for the kids. and let me tell you, that caused SO many problems for him and his siblings. that is a messed-up family. when the split came, it was suddenly shown to my ex that his happy family life, the one he treasured so much growing up, was a total lie. his mother was miserable; his father was (and is) an incurable narcissist. talk about toxic. so to me, staying together for the kids is nothing more than setting the kids up for failure and pain later in life.

    kids deserve happy parents. that’s, in my mind, the best way to be true to them.

  5. Every member of my family, on my father’s side, who has been married, has been divorced, starting with my grandparents. We joke that it is the family disease. Oddly enough, my parents had the longest marriage, and I had the shortest (so far).

    My parents divorced when I was entering college. It was difficult for me because that was the first time I had ever heard my father cry, when he called me worrying that the tuition payment he sent would bounce and I would have to leave school. He worked hard all his life, is an educator, and his one goal and promise was that he would pay for his children to graduate with a degree. He started saving when my brother and I were very little, and those accounts evaporated in an instant when my mom left.

    I think it may be harder on older children, particularly entering college, because while we are trying to find our own way, establish ourselves as individuals, and focus on our studies (and extracurricular activities), we are wondering how the divorce is affecting our parents, and we lose focus. I think when kids are younger, they just do not have those added pressures to worry about. I did. Also, I had to worry about how this affected my younger brother, who was still in high school.

    I had to get used to the two family holidays when I was older, and at that point, there is no routine established by our parents and we have to establish it ourselves, which can lead to feelings of guilt because we do not want either of our parents to be upset. When you are younger, those decisions are really made for you. Its an added burden when you are older, and being single at the time, there is no relationship reason to not be with your family (like going to in-laws and such).

    Now however, both my parents are happy. I have a closer relationship to my dad now than I ever did growing up, and I am still close to my mom. I am glad they are happy, and the divorce was needed on their end.

    But I wish they would have done it a bit earlier. I had a lot of shit going on and that added another layer that I really didn’t need, or want, to deal with.

  6. Hey there, Seattle. I’m answering your question on my blog here as it is about the info you wanted. Most of the divorces around here, mine included, happened when the eldest child was going to be leaving for college. It’s never a good time to divorce, so I think you have to make the best of the situation. The kids absolutely come first. Your question to me – why do I feel it’s so important to have the kids with a therapist where everything between them is confidential? First, the therapist assured me if there was anything that I needed to know (harmful) she would tell me. My eldest opted out as she was in full on college mode; my youngest was overwhelmingly grateful to have the option. The therapist had no connection to me, my ex, and therefore no preconceived notions of who we “were”. It was a place she could go where she could let out her feelings with someone well trained to equip her with the tools she needed to get through it all. She could express whatever she was feeling about me, her life, her dad – and she knew it would never be repeated to us. She will say to this day it was one of the best choices she’s ever made. And, she is very well-adjusted. Her older sister, on the other hand, still has issues but is basically very happy and successful – just stubborn as a mule. My ex is nice, but he is an Eyeore/victim sort at times and she falls all over that. But that isn’t my problem. The adult children of divorce I know have the strongest marriages. They’ve seen the very best intentions – and people – go wrong and they are very careful when it comes to selecting mates. My ex and I do all the things you do (w/o our significant others b/c neither of us has remarried as of today). That includes moving kids in an out of college, all graduations, deb presentations, etc. The holiday situation did not change as we would go to my parents and his parents on those days. It just changed in that I stayed at my parents and he went to his. It’s so important to not “talk shit” about the other spouse. Period. Call your friends, call anyone, but don’t use the kids. I agree with the “holding off romance” for awhile. I wish you and your family the very best, seriously. I need to read your earlier posts to catch up. Take care!

  7. My parents didn’t divorce, but my ex-husband’s had, and I do think it had a significant impact on him. First, I’ll say that I know plenty of well-adjusted people whose parents divorced. From what I’ve seen, it’s really important to always talk about your (former) spouse with respect. REALLY important. Your kids take anything you say about their mom personally. Next, if/when you start dating, make sure the kids know that they’re more important to you than this new person in your life. Finally, there is absolutely no substitution for spending time w/ your kids (whether or not you’re divorced). Some people think they can balance that out by buying kids stuff, but in the end, kids see that as being FAR less valuable.

    I think that simply by asking this question, you’ve demonstrated that your kids are hugely important to you. I have a hunch that you’re going to do keep doing a good job as a dad.

  8. Hi, Inris,

    I don’t know why I’m reading your blog. I’m a 20+ year happily-married guy; oldest kid just started high school, two more behind. So, I’ve read (scanned?) you’re entire blog in the past two days.

    I guess I’m trying to figure out why my parents divorced, and why none of my aunts and uncles remain in their first marriage. Nor my grandmother. So, when I get a little morose, I stoke that fire by reading a divorce-related blog.
    But I’m happily married, so I don’t get the obsession.

    Anyway, while growing up in a New England College town (reading about how you saved graduation I was trying to figure out if it was the same college town or not; my conclusion was no, because you were going uphill to get to the stadium, it couldn’t be) my parents divorced.

    In my case, I made it through 6th grade before my parents split up. My father actually moved out and 8 hours’ drive south after completing his PhD. Apparently, they (or at least one of them) had decided a year before to split up, but they didn’t actually split until my father found his post-graduation job.

    I still remember my mother taking me to a park to tell my younger bro and I that they were divorcing. She actually told me AFTER he had moved out (we weren’t moving anywhere). Because my father moved 8 hours away, I was raised very differently than you intend to raise your children. But remember that once you and Penny divorce, you have no control of how she chooses to live her life. Unless it’s in the divorce agreement, she could end up moving to another city far away. She may say she won’t now. She may intend not to…. but circumstances change.

    Actually, my family is rather funny that way. I told you that none of my aunts and uncles’ first marriages lasted, but all the second marriages have. In my generation, a third have married, and all three marriages have lasted more than 20 years. But 2/3rds have not married. Age-wise, I’m probably smack-dab in the middle. Or maybe my younger brother is.

    So why am I still married? I think it’s because we started on a foundation of friendship that grew into love. Mutual respect. Care for each others needs…or at least an attempt to care. Common faith. And doggoneit, a stubborn insistence on my own part that I’m not participating in putting my kids through what I went.

    My parents tried to make a “workable divorce.” Generally they were civil, but I didn’t see them interact much. by the time I was out of high school, both had remarried. One provided step-siblings, the other half-siblings. (my above statistics don’t include the steps; both married, one divorced). But it was weird and stressful dealing with my parents dating. Not knowing how to introduce my soon-to-be-stepfather to a date of mine. The stress of my own wedding and would my parents get along?

    On the other hand, it strengthened me. Because I was the oldest and because my father moved far away, I took on more responsibility…but not too much. A couple of times, my mother had too much to drink and told me things she shouldn’t have, but only a couple of times. I think the biggest problem, frankly, was that I used my responsibilities to care for my younger brother as an excuse to not try to get myself involved in extra-curricular activities in High School. I’m naturally an introvert… so having to be home for my brother was a convenient excuse…and my mother never tried to suggest otherwise.

    So, 35 years after my parents physically split (has it really been that long?) I’m still searching for answers. I don’t really think I’m ever going to understand what my parents went through. I don’t think I’m ever going to find the answers I’m looking for. And, I don’t think I’m ever going to stop.

    My spouse, by the way, came from a religious home (I came to her faith before I got involved with her). All her siblings are still on their first marriage. As is her parents.

    I recommend you find a copy of “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce” by Wallerstein, Leis, and Blakeslee. Copyright 2000. One of my other obsessions is cheap books — I occasionally go book hunting at Goodwill. I’ve found several copies of the book real cheap there. Both my wife and I read the book, and particularly my wife was shocked at how clear it became that I was scarred by the divorce. And your three will be scarred, too.

    But, frankly, they would be anyway. My wife has different scars. Yes, her parents are still married after 40+ years, but they did things that have scarred my wife. And worse than my parents, they probably wouldn’t admit it.

    So what’s my advise? Fix your marriage. Yeah, I know, that doesn’t help. You can’t fix it without Penny’s help, and if Penny won’t “meet you half-way” then you’re stuck. I guess my real advise is to be sensitive to your boys. This will hurt them — longer and more deeply than you can imagine. But think back to your own childhood and your own disappointments. Your own scars. I don’t think it’s really going to be much worse than those. Short of fixing your marriage, It sounds like you and Penny are going to “do it right.”

    I’ve been thinking about my childhood. I got a lot out of flying to visit dad. It grew me a lot. I’d visit him 2 or 3 times a year — a good 4-6 week stint in the summer, and one of the major holidays. Occasionally he drove back up and took us to visit his mother…but not often. We ended up kind-of estranged from his family.

    My wife is a stay-at-home mom…the plan was that she’d be working by now, but with the economy… anyway, we’ve been very fortunate, financially, to be able to make that work. Throughout this letter, I’ve been hemming and hawing and agonizing over what to suggest for the two of you for physical custody. And I don’t know. I think I very much like the idea of you two living close enough that you are both comfortable with letting them walk between the two homes. For a while my someday-to-become stepfather lived upstairs from us in an apartment complex. That was a nice arrangement — more for her than for us kids, but being that close gives you both so much flexibility and so much more ability to co-parent. But it will only work if, as adults trying to rebuild your life, you two can let each other move on with your lives.

  9. I’m not a child of divorce. But honestly? I spent a great deal of my childhood wishing that my parents weren’t together.

    They were not happy together.

    My dad died when I was 14 and to be honest, after that happened, home life actually improved. Sure, my mom was stressed with dealing with the death of her spouse (from a 30 year marriage) but being able to make decisions for herself and not having anyone to fight with made life a lot more peaceful.

    Staying together “for the kids” does not work, in my opinion. In fact, staying together for any other reason than you’re committed and want to make things work and love each other doesn’t work, either….

  10. What Suzanne said. Spot on.

    And getting apartments in the same complex would be best for the kids. Preferably not within sight of each other, but for the kids to be able to walk back and forth is ideal for them.

  11. Wow– this post really hit a nerve. I knew that I had to leave a comment because I feel like a particularly good authority on this question. But apparently so does everyone else. 🙂

    Yes, yes, yes: KIDS FIRST! That was exactly what I was going to say, and I’ll back it up with my story.

    The reason I’m so fucked up today– why have am so crippled by feelings of abandonment, why being a burden to others is my biggest fear– is because both of my parents let it be known to me when they divorced that I was cramping their style.

    They divorced when I was 14. At the time, I was happy about it. My dad was an asshole and I was totally on my mom’s “side.” My mom and I lived alone at first, but we also started fighting a lot. She started dating a real sleazebag who had cheated on his first two wives, and when he once threatened to throw me across the room, I wouldn’t tolerate it. I was hurt that my mom chose this sleazebag over my well-being.

    So I moved in with my dad. Then he started dating, and married, his second wife. I was a surly teenager and she had no experience with kids, so of course there was tension between us. After one particularly nasty fight, my dad let it be known, explicitly, that I was just a guest in their home. “Don’t try to come between me and my woman!” he told me.

    I left “their” house a few days after graduating high school and never looked back. Meanwhile, my mom had married the sleazebag, but would divorce him eight years later after she realized that he really was a sleazebag. I never went “home” at college, because I never felt like I had any other home other than where I was living.

    Here’s what you do with your kids: Don’t ever let them feel that your love/sex life is more important than their well-being. Don’t treat them like they are guests in your home, or that they don’t belong. Show them that they are important, that they are a priority, that you love them.

    • Dear SnarkB,

      I am so incredibly sorry for your pain. This is something I’ve seen in my family as well as with my students. Every child wants devoted, loving parents who take their job seriously.

      I guess the only thing I left out was don’t have a “second” family that takes the place of the first. My niece deals with this all the time, where her dad’s wife has the “kids” over for dinner. She, as well as her children, are never invited. She’s 31 and still cries from the pain.

      Again, I am so, so, so sorry your parents chose their needs over yours at a vulnerable time.

      Suzanne

  12. A great post.

    I’m a divorced father of 2.

    My parents divorced when I was 20. This had a massive effect on me, but mainly because I never saw it coming. My parents never argued and they are still good friends. They just realised, that as the kids left home, they wanted different things from the remainder of their lives.

    I think the fact it did affect me helped me when I divorced as I understood, a little, what my kids were experiencing.

    Conversely my ex wife’s parents are still married but the ex always states that they should have divorced as they always argued (they still do). I also think this had an affect on how my ex handled the children during our divorce as she never seemed to acknowledge their upset (or at least that is how it seemed to me).

    It goes without saying that the kids should be put first. It is also important to realise that the kids will handle/deal with the divorce in different ways. My lad didn’t mind as long as he saw us both. It hit my daughter harder – she kept hoping that my ex and I would get back together and it was only when she realised that wasn’t going to happen that she could grieve and move forward.

  13. When my ex asked for a divorce, his comment was “I don’t want to be my parents and be in an unhappy marriage for a large portion of my life. They should have gotten a divorce.”. His parents didn’t fight, always provided for their kids, but they didn’t show their children what it meant to have a loving, affectionate, friendship between two adults. As a result, his first thought when things got rough was “It just gets worse from here, and I don’t want that, so I want out.”

    In contrast, my brother-in-law grew up with divorced parents. His mom has been in and out of relationships ever since, but his dad did find someone and was able to model a “good marriage” to his son.

    My brother-in-law has a much healthier outlook on marriage, love, family than my ex. So – what I am trying to say is – it is all about what you show your kids. It isn’t about the fact that they grew up in a divorced or married family.

    One thing I have heard from people who grew up in a divorced household was how much easier it was if their parents still got along after the divorce. It was my #1 priority to make sure that my daughter saw her father and I interracting in a friendly way. That she won’t ever feel uncomfortable about her family situation, and can always ask to have both parents at her functions without it being awkward.

    I’m also relieved to know that perhaps someday I will be in a relationship again where I can be a good model to my daughter of what marriage, love, commitment really means. And….if I don’t find that (or not anytime soon) – then I know in the meantime she is surrounded by friends and family who can role model that for her.

    My daughter hasn’t seem to be affected at all by the divorce. But….she is very young….and her dad checked out of our life back when she was born. So – our life hasn’t changed that much in her eyes.

  14. If you’re wondering how my kids are doing…check out this post: http://scribblingsofasoccermom.com/2010/09/10/normally-abnormal/
    It’s about my kids and how well they’re doing & how the kids always come first and our routines are standard and it works out. BUT you have to be REALLY willing to be in your ex’s life until the kids graduate—there’s no way around it! But it can be successful if you’re committed to it! I do not regret the divorce or where I am in my life now even though I was reluctant at first. But being a parental unit means my kids are thriving so I guess it’s a good/bad thing. I wish my kids had a happy example of a relationship but maybe it’s teaching them more about problem-solving skills and finding your happiness? I just try to do the best I can.

  15. I’m currently drafting a series of posts on my parents divorce and how it affected me, so I don’t want to spill it all here just yet… but I will say a bit…

    First, my mom moved my brother and I away to a new town which pissed me right off (still does) as I don’t feel she had the right to uproot our lives. Second, every second weekend when my Dad drove to town to pick us up, they’d stand in the doorway screaming and yelling at each other and I would be picking up our bags, shuffling my brother into the car, and screaming at my Dad “let’s GO! Stop fucking fighting already, let’s just go!”. I would say anything to make them stop fighting. They would both say really mean things to us about the other one, and there was a lot of trying to “buy” us (my Dad would tell my brother he could have a dog at his house, things like that). They were both miserable, and they put us into the middle of it and we were miserable too. My brother being only 6 at the time was a lot less impacted than I was (I was 14). Instead of listening to either of my parents who in my opinion were acting extremely immature, I rebelled and said to hell with both of them. My Mom would tell me that if I was going to misbehave I could go and live with my Dad (so I did) and then when he tried bossing me around and I wouldn’t listen (my Dad used to treat me like his personal maid- still does) he would tell me the same- to go back and live with my Mother. I started working full time when I was 15, as well as finishing high school. I saved money and I moved out the day after graduation. That’s obviously only pieces of the story, but it was rough to say the least.

    I don’t think, Inris, that you’re even capable of acting like my parents did. Your situation is very much different from mine and I have no doubt that you and Penny will both put your children first. I suppose all I can say is, don’t say anything even remotely bad about Penny in front of the kids, and maintain a solid front when it comes to parenting. Also, try to keep their lives as similar to how they are now as possible. Keep their routine the same at both houses (bath time, reading before bed, things like that) and keep them in the same school if possible. Those little things will help. Oh, and don’t spring it on them. Let them get used to the idea that they’ll be moving and give them an oppourtunity to ask questions, don’t overwhelm them all at once.

    Good luck 🙂

  16. Wow, lots of great comments!
    My parents divorced when I wa 30. They both have said and I agree that they should have divorced LOOOOOOOOOOng before that. It was harder on me that I ever thought it would be. But I tend to think that they are both much happier people now which in turns makes me much happier!

  17. I fall into the category that my parents are not divorced but should have been. We watched/still watch a not so good marrige….in which they settled….like I settled in my marriage. I don’t think there is any right or wrong answer now a days to it. I think it just depends on the path the parents take and how they choose to act. Those actions alone are what the children are going to remember. I don’t think we give children enough credit. Your kids know something isn’t right just as Bear knew something wasn’t right with Dustin and I. You know your kids best though.

  18. Everyone else has had such good things to say, there’s little point…. but I do like to give my opinion, so here goes:

    My parents separated when I was 13. Initially, the adjustment was hard- but all changes take some getting used to (for all of us, regardless of age or circumstances). After my dad moved out, my parents stopped fighting (at least as far as I knew) and, even though I could tell it was difficult at times, they worked together as parents. And they didn’t speak badly about each other to me or my sister (I think that’s the most important thing). Over the years, my parents have grown to be friends and that’s very important to me- I never worry about events/holidays/etc where they might be in the same space together… in fact, I look forward to it (I realize this isn’t typical and I’m really lucky).

    I can’t say enough positive things about my experience as a “divorced kid”… I learned a lot from my parents: aside from “shit happens” and “time heals”, they taught me that sometimes it’s best to leave an unhealthy situation- in doing so, you can turn it into something positive.

  19. While I am not a child of divorce, my wife is. Her parents handled things very badly as they broke up, because there had to be a cause for divorce other than incompatibility. She had to watch them lie to the court about physical abuse for a divorce to be granted. As her parents were clergy, it also affected her beliefs to the point that she is skeptical about everything – especially me.

    There is much from that time that my wife still refuses to tell me. As a result, there is much I still don’t know about her. If she has her way, I never will. About all I can say is it would have been much better if her parents hadn’t gotten married at all, or divorced much sooner than they did. They had absolutely nothing in common except serious misimpressions about religious life, and they only made each other miserable.

    Regarding your other questions, Suzanne’s advice at the top of the thread seems to me to be the best advice overall. Everyone else has something to offer that you might use to fine tune things to your specific situation. About all I can add is to stay as consistent as possible regarding how you treat your sons, about your behavior rules for them as their parent, and to avoid sudden and major changes in their lives. They already have enough to deal with. I send my best wishes for success.

  20. I recently went through a divorce and have two young daughters. I think it has been very hard on them. Loosing their family home, the constant shifting back and forth, and the general awkwardness. I could not imagine growing up in a situation where each week you have to pack your things and move to a different home.

    There are also factors that the children feel but don’t know about specifically. Primarily the loss of wealth. Great volumes of money which could have been used for college etc has disappeared into new mortgages, lawyer fees, establishing a 2d household, etc, etc. Expenses that would not have arisen if the family stayed intact.

    The divorce is also hard on the kids because the parents are in flux. I’ve seen many friends get divorced recently (we are of the age) and none of them simply sat down, had a sober conversation, and decided to get a divorce. Generally, one person turns into a permiscuous 20 year old and the other is mistified and deeply hurt. On top of everything else, the kids have to deal with that wierdness.

    Anyway, my advice to my friends is once you know you are getting divorced, jump on the gas and try to get through it as fast as possible bother physically and emotionally. Put your kids first and provide a stable enviornment in which they can grow up. No wierdness at home. All things safe and good….and if you happen to be the 40 something acting like a permiscous 20 something, remember you have kids who are relying on you and it’s time to grow up.

  21. You’ve got tons of great advice here. I am not a child of divorced – my parents were married until my mum died, when I was 31.

    My children were 14 and 11 when I divorced. Aside from having two homes, their lives stayed pretty much the same – same school, same bus, same friends, same activities. My ex lives in the same town so that makes it easy too.

    I always made a big deal of trying to make sure my children felt my house was their home (or at least one of them). So they could come and go – I have key box outside for them. I asked them to always let me know mainly because of supervision concerns. My fear was that a parenting schedule would make them feel that our houses were hotels were they had reservations for certain days and couldn’t stay outside those days.

    I think being flexible with the parenting schedule around the child’s needs is important. My ex is supposed to see the children every Wednesday and every other weekend. My daughter never wanted to do the Wednesday night visit because she felt it was too disruptive. My son now feels that way also. Thankfully, my ex has never insisted on it and has accepted it and I think this made a big different to the kids.

    He has also been really good about sleepovers and pretty much never said they couldn’t sleepover at a friend’s house just because it was his parenting time and he hadn’t seen them. I also wouldn’t say no but then I have them so much more.

    So I guess if I had to choose one word, it would be “flexibility.”

    Given how much thought you’ve put into this, I’m confident you’ll figure out what works best for your children.


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