Divorce is difficult emotionally in any marriage, but it finds itself at its most complex when it occurs with little children to raise. Breaking up a young family raises certain delicate issues, as it requires both parents to really evaluate how they will behave post-divorce because these abilities (or lack thereof) will set precedents for years of parenting ahead. The young family has not had lots of practice parenting, but still has much to learn at a variety of age levels. To make this work, the parents need to think how best to work cooperatively together.
In a recent essay in Slate, Lara Bazelon shared her own experience divorcing after five years of marriage with two small children and offered some words of advice we thought we would share.
First, reorient your point of view. During divorce, we become entrenched in our own position, our own view of the case and the world. But if you try and walk a mile in your partner’s shoes, you will find insight into how that parent works, communicates, thinks and relates to issues involving the children. Understanding that point of view makes it easier to process what that parent does and says, and helps you figure out how to reach common points on parenting.
Second, hold your tongue in public. Many people want to vent their emotions about divorce and parenting difficulties after divorce, often involving a commentary on the other parent. This will not be helpful and brings third parties into your drama for no reason. Keep your problems to yourself and your closest friends and family. The restraint you show in this fashion will help you be more restrained in dealing with your ex.
Third, choose a venting partner carefully. Divorce and post-divorce, you will find yourself stressed and wanting to talk it through with someone. If you cannot do so through a therapist, you should choose a close friend or family member on whom you can rely for discretion and good advice and little judgment.
Fourth, the “golden rule” of divorce – do not write or say anything to your ex that you would not want admitted into evidence in your court case and read by the judge.
Five, try to keep new relationships away from your ex and to a large extent your children. New relationships may have little permanence, and it does the children no good to feel part of such a temporary situation where they become emotionally attached. Also, your ex may have unresolved feelings and seeing you attached could create problems.
Finally, always keep learning. Nothing about divorce and post-divorce life will be simple and programmatic. You will need to adjust on the fly and learn to adapt to new situations. Such fluidity happens best if you keep your mind and senses open.
If you have questions about divorce and young children, contact us – we can help.