If you have been unsuccessful in repairing your relationship after infidelity and you are separating or divorcing, your life is now in a state of change and transition.
You are beginning a brand new chapter - one that is full of challenges - parenting challenges, emotional challenges, and so much more!
Let's face it - it is really, really hard to co-parent with someone who has hurt you to your very core!
It requires you to be the better parent for your child, even when it's hard.
Even when your ex continues to be difficult or mean to you.
It really isn't fair.
But as a Mom, sometimes we just need to do what's right for our child.
Despite how we feel about their dad, we have to find ways to help our child through the emotional storm in their life.
Because the truth is, your child hurts too.
You know from your own experience, how painful all of this is.
Their pain is there too. It's there even if they don't tell you about it.
Your child's life is now changing in some pretty big ways:
- There is the breakup of the family they once found a sense of security in.
- There is often shared custody with two separate homes to alternate living in.
- There may be a move to a new house or a new school.
- You may have to work more to make ends meet, leaving less time to spend with your child.
- Their relationship with both parents is also changing as your role with them changes.
- There may be exposure to fighting and conflict which is highly distressing to them.
- They may feel responsibility for what happened to their family.
- They may be placed in the middle and used as a pawn to get back at the other parent.
All of these things can be difficult and hurtful for children to deal with.
Your support will go a very long way in helping your child successfully adjust to what's happening in their life.
You've already taken a step that will be better for them in the long-run - You have chosen to leave a bad marriage - one that left you in tremendous pain and feeling disrespected.
It's really hard to be the best mom you can under those conditions.
You now have an opportunity to create a more positive future and that is going to benefit you and your child.
You have an opportunity to shine, to grow, to truly overcome your toxic marriage.
In a perfect world, our marriage would have been that secure, loving foundation that lasts a lifetime.
But divorce happens - especially after chronic infidelity strips away the foundation of trust and respect.
I don't know about you, but as much as I believe a marriage with two loving parents is beneficial for children - I also believe that living in a conflicted, painful home where their father regularly disrespects their mother is not good for children.
Now that the decision has been made to separate or divorce, it's best to turn your focus on ways you can help your child adjust.
In the long run, this will help them grow and create a positive chapter in their life.
According to Dr. Bruce Fisher and Dr. Robert Alberti, authors of the book, "Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends," children go through stages of adjustment after separation and divorce.
Fisher and Alberti note that children go through the following stages after separation and divorce:
1 | Gaining an understanding of what divorce is and how it will effect their everyday life.
2 | Learning how to successfully cope and adjust to all of the changes.
3 | Feeling safe enough with at least one parent to share their thoughts and feelings about what's happening.
4 | To understand that they are not responsible in any way, for the cause of their parent's separation or divorce.
5 | To know that they have the freedom to love both parent's and are not forced to take sides or to choose loyalty to one parent over the other.
6 | To accept that you and your spouse will not be reuniting with each other.
7 | To accept that you will date and form a new relationship in the future. They understand that this can have both, positive, as well as challenging aspects to it for them.
8 | To get to the point where they no longer feel so alone - like they are the only one dealing with the break up of their family. Their self-confidence increases.
9 | To feel the freedom to be themselves and to fully adjust to the separation and divorce.
As you can see, there is much emotional work for your child to do, just as there is for you.
Now that you know some of the challenges your child faces, Let's talk about 5 ways you can help your child adjust to your separation or divorce.
1 | Let your child know that you will always be there for them and that your love for them will not change.
They need at least one parent they can count on 100% to be there for them. You are the safe haven in the storm - the soft place they can land when things get hard for them. Show them in big and small ways, that you love them. Spend positive time with them.
2 | Keep your child completely out of the middle of all relationship troubles between you and their dad.
This means no talking about their dad negatively to your child, putting them in the middle of conflict, using your child as a messenger to the other parent, or talking to others about your ex when you child can hear you. Set a firm personal policy that you will not trash your ex, (even when you feel he really deserves it,) in front of your child.
3 | Allow your child to love both of you.
Your child benefits from being able to freely love both parents. As they grow up, they will understand that your ex's behavior caused the breakup. But right now, let your child love you both. (I know, it doesn't seem fair - and that's because it isn't.) But this is about putting your child's best interest before your own.
Please be sure that you get the support you need for yourself because your feelings matter too!
4 | Have weekly family meetings and allow your child to ask questions and talk openly about the separation or divorce.
Answer questions in a basic way, remaining mindful that it isn't in your child's best interest for you to express your anger or negativity about their dad to them. This is a time for your child to feel safe enough to express his or her thoughts, questions, and feelings. It is also a time for problem-solving the challenges that come up regarding all the changes happening in your child's life.
5 | Anticipate the fact that as you begin feeling better and stronger in your recovery, your child may start to unravel and fall apart emotionally.
Interestingly enough, when a parent is upset, feeling down, or having a hard time, a child will often step up and try to comfort his or her parent. During this time, you may also find that your child is on their best behavior, being careful not to cause any problems for you. As you start to feel better, you may find the roles reversed. Now your child is taking their turn dealing with the grief he or she feels about your separation or divorce. It's now your turn to comfort your child. Continue to be that soft place to land.
I know being a separated or divorced mom is a very challenging role.
I've been there too.
I also know that this difficult chapter will end as the new one is being built.
Let me know your thoughts about your challenges related to parenting after separation and divorce.
I'd love to hear from you!
All the best . . .