Divorce is one of the toughest situations you may face in your lifetime. It may seem like you and your spouse will never be able to be in the same room again without tension and animosity. However, when you have children, you must do everything possible to move beyond anger and find your way to an emotionally healthy future and an amicable divorce.
Follow these 10 golden rules to create a healthier, more amicable divorce and co-parenting future.
1. Accept that all-out war isn’t inevitable.
In fact, it’s destructive. Mediation aims to reduce anger between divorcing spouses. A mediator, a neutral third party with years of experience and training, can ensure that both sides get a chance to feel heard and help diffuse tense topics.
2. Stay in charge of your divorce.
Remember, this is your divorce, not your lawyers’. By hiring a mediator instead, you are ensuring your divorce is negotiated by you and your spouse with the help of a neutral third party trained in conflict resolution. Unlike attorneys, mediators have no stake in either side getting a better deal. They want you and your spouse to come to an agreement you can both live with for years to come. Learn more about the perils of attorney-driven divorces in “The Truth Behind the Story: How Marriage Story Makes the Case for Divorce Mediation.”
3. Slow down the process.
Although adults often want to move on quickly, remember that children need time to adjust. Take time to answer their questions and consider counseling if necessary. Avoid making big decisions rashly, like moving far away or switching the children’s schools.
4. Accept that your child needs—and has a right to—both parents.
Even though you may be angry with your spouse, remember your children love and need your ex. Consider how you can both be present ( such as evening goodnight calls or photos in your child’s room) even when you’re living separately.
5. Cooperate for the sake of your children.
It’s one of the best gifts you can give your kids. Children need stability. Ongoing conflict between parents increases children’s distress. This means not just cooperating during the divorce proceedings, but also abiding by the custody agreement in the future—and settling any issues that arise out of earshot of your kids.
6. Don’t badmouth your ex in front of the children.
When you badmouth your ex to the kids, you’re placing adult problems on their shoulders. You’re telling your kids that the part of them that is like their other parent is bad too. They may feel at fault for the strife. By using your kids to let off steam, you are poisoning their relationship not just with your ex, but you too. It will damage their trust in both parents.
7. Divorce is not the end of the family.
It’s important to your children’s well-being for them to feel like they still have a family. Help them understand that the divorce means they are now a dual-household family. That includes extended family, even if you’re secretly hoping to never cross paths with certain in-laws again.
8. Recognize that compromise is always necessary.
This is key to helping to reduce your anger. In moments that feel unfair, remember that your ex will be compromising as well.
9. Let yourself face and grieve your loss.
One of the big losses in a divorce is the loss of future dreams, from big things like retiring and welcoming grandchildren together to smaller moments like having meals as a family. Just beneath your anger is sorrow over the loss of your imagined future as a family. Give yourself time and space to grieve and adjust to this new reality.
10. Let the anger go and move on with your life.
Holding on to hostility and anger is self-destructive. It keeps you stuck in the past and from finding new joys in life. The grace of acceptance is healthy for everyone involved—especially you.
One way to mitigate stress and anger in your divorce is to hire a mediator. The right mediator can help you navigate the complex issues of co-parenting agreements, seeing past your current conflicts to create a sound mediation agreement that will best serve your family in the years to come.
Contact South Bay Mediation to learn how we can help your family.