When you become a parent, you become a world class worrier. Add a high-conflict divorce to the mix, and you suddenly feel the need to climb Mount Everest to keep your kids happy.
I get it. I was you. You don’t want to see your child in pain. So today I want to share 3 secrets to help your kids survive a high conflict divorce.
1. Put on your own oxygen mask first
This is totally counterintuitive to most loving parents. We have spent years putting our children’s needs ahead of our own. But here is the thing – until you can secure your own oxygen mask and manage your emotional life, you will not be in a place to be the parent that you want too be.
Once you are effectively in control of your own emotions, you will have significantly more strength for your kids. They can feel secure in knowing that you are okay, and then they can fall apart as much as they need to.
You are the barometer of the house. Your victim mentality is toxic to your children. Do your work – in whatever form you find effective to heal your inner wounds and traumas.
2. Stop wanting to fix your child’s emotional pain
As a parent we have the false sense that our kids should not suffer. But here is the truth – if your child does not learn how to manage their emotional pain, they will never be able to manage it as an adult.
A child with big feelings does not need to be told to be happy. When your child is sad or disappointed, we need to honour them for where they are. They can be allowed to experience these feelings without judgement. Uncomfortable feelings do not have to be fixed.
When we give them the space to experience negative emotions such as pain, we show them that we know they are capable of experiencing uncomfortable feelings. This will create emotional resilience for your kids.
Life is painful. The pain does not need to be fixed. It is a wave that passes. Children know how to ride this wave. If you swoop in all the time they will not learn how to soothe themselves and manage their emotions.
3. You don’t have to change your child’s experience
We all had a very different expectation of our marriage and family. We have a story about how things were supposed to be, but it turns out we were wrong. Going down the rabbit hole of “what should have been” serves no one. Every time you argue with reality, you lose.
It is time to clean up how you think about your child’s experience on the planet, even if it is different from what you had planned. Being sad for your child is not particularly helpful to them. Being worried is also counterproductive because it makes you what to micromanage and control their experience – which you can’t.
It is okay that your child is struggling with a negative emotion – choose to believe that they will figure it out. You can also choose to believe that this is their unique journey and you are here to support them on this journey.
Divorce provides us with an opportunity to evolve as a parent. I like to call it our special “curriculum”: to develop mastery at managing our thoughts and emotions. Completing this curriculum is what will most help your kids survive a high conflict divorce. The more that we do the work on ourselves, the stronger we become emotionally and mentally, and the more our children will thrive.