Received with thanks from Katie, Cape Town mother of three boys:
Anyone who is blessed to be a parent, of one or several children, will know that it is by far the toughest job on earth. There is no manual for raising the ‘perfect’ child, though some common-sense parameters go a long way towards sanity in any household with children: children need to feel secure, loved, receive good nutrition, be educated, receive respect, nursed when they are unwell and their voice be heard – by both parents!
All of the above needs are traditionally met, ideally, with two parents involved in the daily routines. There are very few adults who would take on the responsibility of raising a child alone, by choice. So, what happens to the children post divorce? Their needs are still the same, yet one or both of their parents is dealing the very real, grief-like emotional trauma of ‘losing’ their former partner and co-parent (which, depending on the length of the marriage, can take several years to dissipate or work through).
In order to be a great parent, there needs to be some semblance of harmony between all parties. Too often the divorcing parents are so consumedby self-pity, anger, bitterness and hurt, that it is naturally harder to focus on the emotional wellbeing of the children, without negatively impacting on them too, which it undoubtedly will.As well intentioned as you may be, slinging arrows at your ex partner from the bow of divorce lawyers, is not understood by children, who do not see the reasoning behind your legal actions (and probably never will understand why you set out to fight with their mom/dad and spend crazy amounts of money in the legal process).
The saying “not seeing the woods for the trees” springs to mind; we all know, deep down that we would do anything to protect our children from hurt, pain and emotional trauma, but at what cost? If you are divorced, there was clearly a valid reason for this decision, however, blaming each other for the why’s and wherefores and allowing your personal feelings to spill over into what’s best for the children, is not beneficial to anyone, least of all the children. This is where mediation offers a less aggressive, less confrontational (and less costly) approach to the process of separating what once was a family unit, into two separate households, with a common approach to co-parenting, as seamlessly as possible, under very trying circumstances. It takes courage and strength to adapt to a new way of living, but it is possible if everyone puts in the effort.
Which brings me back to my first point about raising children alone: why make a tough job, even tougher, now that the custodial parent has full 24/7 responsibility for the daily care of the child(ren)? Surely it makes sense to put even more emphasis on ensuring that you both play an active emotional role in raising your children. They did not ask for a divorce, they will never divorce either parent, so give them what they need and deserve and work together by formulating a parenting plan through a mediator.
As hard at it is to let go of negative feelings towards your ex partner, your children will thank you one day (and you will feel better about yourself) if you choose to take a more dignified approach and lead by example. Life is not easy as it is, we owe it to our children to show them that every stumbling block has a solution. So if you are serious about wanting what’s best for your child post divorce, lose the ‘hate’: rather mediate and communicate.
Posted by CoParenting