How to do Divorce Better (and not completely fuck up your child)

I'm a product of divorce. I don't fully understand what divorce did to me, my psyche and my personality (if it did anything impactful).  I hardly doubt Bravo's Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce will help me dissect the details of my parent's divorce on any such relatable level.

However, I do know a thing or two about how my parents, and hundreds of others could've done it better.

In researching for this post, I've been unable to seek out actual, hard divorce statistics.  And so have many other writers who have gone down this path.  No one is really tracking this stuff.  Furthermore, no one is statistically tracking the children in divorce - the numbers, the possible mental illnesses, jail time, suicide rates (this is assuming divorce severely and negatively effects children - for this, I'd say it depends on so many factors - age of children at time of divorce, reason for divorce, co-parenting skills, etc.)

I mean, if children are in an abusive home, and the abused person files for divorce and gets their children out of harms way, I'm sure divorce is a blessing.  Confusing still for the children for so many reasons, but yes, a relief.  Maybe even a life-saver.

So, for the sake of argument, let's assume we're dealing with a non-abusive marriage.  And subsequent divorce.  And let's be real, all children involved in a divorce will suffer in one way or another at varying degrees.  Here's how you can do it better, and lessen the emotional blow.  However that emotional blow manifests itself in a child.

1. Get over your fucking tears and hurt and put on a happy face....for your kids.  Break down to your family, friends and therapist PRIVATELY all day long - but don't have those sobbing events in front of your kids. I'm not saying to fake emotional strength - crying in front of children is good - they'll learn that they can cry too.  But those really loud, snot-blasting, can't-catch-your-breath- sobs: save it for your sound proof coat closet.

2. Learn how to co-parent.  You may hate the other person's fucking guts and want them dead, but both parents need to giddy-up, and assume their roles as a united front.  A united front with both parents giving the kids consistent messages. Which truthfully, being a united front is good whether you're married or divorced.  But, being a parent alliance is of utmost importance when you're going through a divorce - because chances are - your kid's world is crumbling right before their eyes.  They need consistency.  They need strong co-parents.

3. Don't you dare talk shit about the other parent in front of your child.  Children idolize their parents - they love their parents unconditionally.  However, when one parent bad-mouths the other parent it creates an even more confusing and toxic experience for the child.  It's a sick, mind-fucking thing to do.  It screws up that child's confidence - suddenly they're questionning everything they've ever known and aren't sure about a damn thing all because mommy said daddy is a piece of shit who won't pay child support, or won't stop seeing his new girlfriend - whatever.  Your kids cannot process adult situations like an adult (some adults can't process adult situations either), but do your best to bite your tongue and keep that temper in check.  You may be fuming that he fucked your friend, or that she nailed the newbie at work, but keep that shit to yourself, or let it go with some cocktails WITH YOUR ADULT FRIENDS.

4. Don't use your kids as leverage or as a threat to the other parent.  That's low down and dirty.  That's putting them in the middle of a very volatile situation.  You and your ex made the mess - so don't play monkey in the middle with your kids.  Use an expensive leather couch, diamond earrings, a house in the Caribbean, a toaster, but kids are OFF LIMITS.

5. Get a custody agreement (a detailed one) in place as fast as possible.  Don't let ambiguity be your guide.  Get every single detail, pick ups, drop offs, school vacations, whatever... hashed out immediately.  No grey areas, everyone knows and understands the plan = less confusion and instability for kids.

6. Attend family gatherings.  That's right - this is back to the 'ol united front business.  There are going to be graduations, recitals, soccer games, birthdays etc. that outside family members and both parents will want to attend.  Do not disengage.  Instead, show your kid that you're a mature human being. You can all be together, if everyone acts gracefully and tactfully.

7. Talk to your child about the divorce.  But, put the details on their level and choose your words wisely (maybe you outta practice in front of the mirror a few times)??  If not, therapy.  I despise therapy as an adult - but I've heard it helps millions of people.  And, I had it when my parents divorced - which was nice, because it felt like a safe place to vent. So, get your kids talking to someone, anyone.

8. Don't discourage your child from talking about the other parent (in negative or positive ways).  Just let them talk.  Gawd forbid you hear your ex's name exit your child's mouth.  It's okay killa.

9. Make sure family members and friends outside of the immediate sphere know the deal.  Everyone who will be interacting with your child needs to be briefed on the situation - and given pointers on do's and don'ts with your child.  Family members will be no doubt talking about you and the divorce anyways (because people are gossiping assholes) - but they all need to hear it from the horse's mouth, including any and all visitation arrangements.

10. Eventually move on.  Sooner than later.  Don't let the hurt consume your years.  It does more damage to yourself and to your kids.  Do you want your son or daughter to see you as this miserable, damaged angry man or woman?  By all means, grieve a bit, get mad, but then get back to being the best person and parent you can be - without emotional baggage.  And if that means you need to go see a shrinky-dink - then do it.

If you think this would help someone going through a divorce, by all means forward it on.  This isn't professional advice, it's personal experience advice.  Also, make comments below, or on my Facebook page - or TWEEEETT ME.

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