Saturday, January 20, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Don't let the dialogue of divorce damage the kids

A difficult divorce.

Is there an easy one? Perhaps one without children involved?

There are moments when I think I'm one of the fortunate few to have completed a relatively uncomplicated simple parting from my husband.

Regrettably, my former husband and I are not the only participants in this life-changing event.

There are three kids privy to the inner workings of this emotional roller coaster.

I have struggled with sadness, pain, regret and guilt. I have made mistakes throughout the course of this process, some that I promised myself I would never do after witnessing others make them.

We don't know how we will react to something until we face it, but most days, I consider myself to be at peace.

Dealing with your former spouse often proves more difficult during a divorce than when you were married. And if your former spouse is angry, the damage will be exponentially magnified.

I haven't been completely successful in avoiding all of the pitfalls, but I've fared better than many I know. I've tried to be fair and remain nice. I've tried to maintain some semblance of friendship when possible.

But emotions can run high and flare up in the heat of the moment. I sometimes overreact and lash out at him, but I usually calm down and apologize.

If anyone speaks negatively of him in front of the kids, I will swiftly interrupt them and do my best to correct the misguided words with the kids.

When the kids complain about their dad, I point out another perspective. I try to help them understand why he did or said what he did.

But when the kids get upset because he has said something to them regarding me, I find myself at a loss. As painful as it is, especially considering how easy it would be to return the favor, I just tell them sometimes when people are unhappy, they say things they don't mean.

It's obvious we don't think the world of each other anymore, or we would still be married. We were just very different people who married way too young and did the best we could to raise three children together. But he isn't a bad man. He has good qualities and he tries to do his best.

The kids know us both very well. They recognize our individual strengths and weaknesses. They see things, even when we are trying to protect them from certain topics.

But the anger that exists between two people in the middle of a divorce should remain between those two people. Sharing your thoughts, stories and emotions with your kids imposes your perception, and your perception often doesn't jibe with reality.

What occurred between you and your spouse didn't have the same effect on your children. Even if they are fully aware of the events that transpired leading up to the divorce, they love both parents.

I'm confident enough that I don't need to disparage their relationship with other family members in order to feel good about the one I have with each of them.

I don't need the kids to understand what happened, or how much pain I went through or make them dislike their father. It would only be to their detriment to lose a relationship with their dad.

What people fail to realize is that the more negative they speak about people their children love, the more they alienate their children. It's counter- productive and selfish.

The next time you are trying to induce guilt on your kids for loving their other parent, just remember who you are really hurting. You might not have done the right thing in the marriage, but it's never too late to start doing the right thing in the divorce.

Heather Tempesta is a single mother of three who lives in Brandon.

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