Our girls were young when we got divorced. So young that at this point (six plus years later), I don’t think they even remember me being with their father unless they see pictures. However, there are times in which they reminisce and say they wish we were still together. I’m guessing that’s pretty normal. While I wasn’t the perfect “divorced mom” by far, I learned a lot along the way (and I’m still learning!), the Four Rs, as I refer to them. Here are a few tips that might help you and your children when they struggle with divorce:
- Reassurance. You can never reassure your kids enough that they are loved and valued. Oftentimes they think something was their fault or that they could have prevented the divorce in the first place. Nothing could be farther from the truth. So tell them! Comfort them by letting them know that it is an adult issue, and they do not need to concern themselves with it because they have enough things to think about as a kid. Change the topic, if needed, or allow them to draw about their feelings. Try to maintain their innocence and not allow them to get wrapped up in adult issues. Oftentimes, kids are “parentified” when one parent is not ready or able to take on the adult role. Sadly, involving the children in too many decisions forces them to grow up too quickly and take on responsibilities that are beyond their capabilities. Ultimately, puts added stress on the child, leading to some potential emotional issues later. Support your child(ren) in enjoying things they should be enjoying and being responsible for things they should be responsible for, such as keeping their room tidy or doing some chores around the home.
- Reaction. When they make comments about the other parent, step-parent, or other side of the family, always react and respond positively, or at the very least, neutrally (nod your head and keep a straight face – no eye rolls!). While the actual cause of your divorce may have all but killed you inside, it is best if we can keep those negative or hurtful feelings to ourselves without the children knowing. They deserve to think highly of both parents, regardless of how that parent may have treated you. Allow to talk about other home, if at all possible. Ask questions to engage the conversation ONLY if you have good intentions, not to find out more information to hold it against the other parent later. That is never a productive idea.
- Relationships. Healthy relationships with the co-parent and stepmom/stepdad are very important. Luckily, my first husband has been a neutral co-parent. While we have our share of disagreements, we rarely argue or go on tangents targeting the other person. Don’t get me wrong…it has happened before, but it really doesn’t ever solve anything. While we don’t always see eye to eye, I am fortunate that he and I do have our girls’ best interests in mind. I am also lucky in that he has married a wonderful woman, which means my girls benefit from living with a lovely stepmom. She and I talk face-to-face, we text when we need to, and we are friends on Facebook. It is refreshing that we can be considerate adults…again, it does nothing but benefit the girls. And I can genuinely say that I like her and am grateful she is a presence in my girls’ lives.
- Rely. Rely on God. This final point cannot be reiterated enough. Before I got divorced, I took a lot of things for granted, including my family and time with my girls. After I went through the process, I grew (A LOT) spiritually. It basically renewed my faith in God, and I realized that I cannot do this alone. I am strong, but only with Him by my side. I don’t do it enough, but reading the Bible and referring to verses daily is really enlightening. In my darkest hours, I try to focus on Bible verses to get me through and Christian songs which bring encouragement to my soul. I know this all sounds hokey, but it’s true. I encourage you to jot down a few Bible verses that are soothing and help you focus. Put them in places that you will undoubtedly find them when you need them most (e.g., in your phone, your purse, books, and even under your pillow!).
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.
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