The work of helping your kids successfully navigate your divorce is 80% about getting your head in the right place and 20% about strategies and tools. When you get your head in the right place, everything, including your legal battle, but especially parenting, is so much easier. Here are some tips for how to be a better parent through divorce.
Parenting vs Controlling
The difference between parenting and controlling is the way you are thinking before you speak to your kids. When you are “parenting” you are operating from intentional thoughts. When you are “controlling” you are operating from default brain thoughts. Let me show you what I mean.
Default thoughts may include:
- I raised him/her better
- they should respect me
- I need to fix this
- this is my fault
- people are going to think….
- he is going to ruin his life
These thoughts create feelings of anger, anxiety, pain, guilt and fear. You will not be able to listen, validate, speak, and parent through divorce to the best of your ability from these emotions.
Intentional thoughts to practice:
- I am the mom/dad for this
- he/she is on his own journey
- she is not doing this to hurt me
- this is normal
- I don’t have to get upset when s/he is upset
- s/he is doing the best s/he can
- nothing has gone wrong here
These thoughts create feelings of confidence, curiousity and compassion. I promise that you will show up more as the parent that you want to be from these emotions.
Coach yourself through it
A reminder of the self coaching model:
CIRCUMSTANCES – factual, without opinion-this part is out of your control
THOUGHTS – You will have many thoughts, pick one you want to examine
FEELINGS – How does that thought make you feel? One word description
ACTIONS – What do you do (or not do) in a situation when you feel this way?
RESULTS – The results of your action and proof for the thought.
What to think when your child behaves in a way you don’t agree with
When your child is doing something that you don’t agree with, just put that action or behaviour in the circumstance line of your model. It is neutral. What are you going to think about it? I suggest you think – this is the part where I try to be the parent I want to be. From there you will feel better and take better action. It looks like this:
Circumstance: My son came home after a weekend with his dad and told me I am taking all of dad’s money.
Thought: This is the part where I try to be the mom I want to be.
Action: Have an open conversation with the child, ask questions, state my expectations of conduct in this house, hold the child accountable with compassion, remain open and available.
Result: I am being the mom I want to be.
How to think about it when your child is in pain
When your child is experiencing big emotions during divorce, again put the things s/he says in the circumstance line of your model. It is factual and neutral. What are you going to intentionally think about it? I suggest you think: this is my child’s unique journey. It is ok to feel big emotions. A feeling is not something that I need to fix. From there you will take better action to parent through divorce. It looks like this:
Circumstance: My son is crying because mom told him that she has a new boyfriend.
Thought: My son’s feelings are not a problem for him.
Action: Listen, validate, help my child feel his feelings and describe them to help him process the emotion.
Result: His feelings are not a problem for me either – we both build resilience.
I am (still) working at it too
Even adult children can challenge us as parents. I have to remind myself, when my son is not following my Manual for how I think he should conduct his life, that he is on his own unique journey. My brain wants to convince me how he is doing it wrong. I have to speak to my brain at least as much as I listen to my brain to remind myself that nothing has gone wrong here.