How many of you have seen the recent clip of the dad walking his daughter down the aisle at her wedding that stopped and got the step father to walk with them? What an awesome testimony of what being divorced with kids should look like. This is one of those areas that I feel very strong and compassionate about. I do not want to step on anyones toes with this blog, however when God lays it on my heart to write and express something, I stand obediently in doing so.
Unfortunately, all marriages do not have happy endings. This should not mean that kids happiness should stop as well. In a perfect world there would be no divorce, however we all know that is very unlikely in today’s society. I have been there. I know what being divorced with kids looks like. You see, divorce is generally ugly. You don’t go to bed one night with someone who brings you great happiness, someone you are madly in love with only to wake up in the morning to say, “you make me so happy, I want a divorce.” You did not get to the point of divorce without anger, bitterness and aggravation. When my first husband and I divorced, my kids were 7 and 3. I will spare you all the details of what led us to that place in our marriage but that is where we ended up. Now we were in a place where we had to deal with joint custody arrangements that would often end up being nothing shy of exhausting. We had to begin thinking of our relationship as a completely new one, one that is entirely about the well-being of our children, and not about us. Just because a marriage may be over, your family is not; doing what is best for your kids should be the most important priority. The first step to being a mature, responsible co-parent is to always put your children’s needs ahead of your own. Philippians 2:3 says it best; “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” I think this verse is very important to remember when co-parenting. Humility is the key word….we had to humble ourselves frequently and often bite our tongues which was sometimes very difficult, especially in the early days of the divorce. I have seen so many people use their kids as bargaining tools or as a way to manipulate the ex in some way. I believe it is perfectly natural to be hurt and angry, but your feelings don’t have to dictate your behavior. Instead, do what’s best for your kids by working cooperatively with the other parent. I could have easily gotten caught up in the negative actions in the beginning. It did not take me nor my ex husband long to realize that was not the healthy route for us to take in regards to our kids happiness. My boys love me unconditionally and guess what? They love their dad too.
We learned very quickly that there were several steps that we had to take to insure stability in our children. First, they needed to feel secure. Kids need to know that both parents love them and the divorce was not their fault. Our “papers” had the boys scheduled for some mid-week visits. They were supposed to be picked up after school and returned by 8:00 pm. They ALWAYS spent the night on that designated night, they needed to recognized their dads as “home” too not just a place to visit with time constraints. Secondly, they need to see their parents working together on issues instead of constant conflict. Kids that see their divorced parents working things out civilly will more than likely have the same result in handling conflict themselves. Third, they need consistency. They need to know what to expect and when to expect it. Also, never use your child as “the messenger”. When you have your child tell the other parent something for you, it puts him or her in the center of your conflict. It is your responsibility to do the communicating. And most importantly, KEEP YOUR THOUGHTS TO YOURSELF! The bible tells us in Ephesians 4:29, Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. I understand first hand how difficult this can be. In all honesty I can say in the early days, I did not do the best job at this. However, any corrupt talking I may have done was NOT done in front of my children.
I am certainly no expert in the area of raising kids as divorced parents nevertheless, I do know what worked for us. I will say at 19 and 15 my kids have a tremendous amount of respect for me and my ex husband on the job we have done as co-parents. They also have respect for their step-parents. It is a great reward when your child comes to you and says, “Thank you for always getting along with my dad.” They have seen so many kids who were not as fortunate. It has been 11 years since my first husband and I divorced and by Gods grace and mercy, we have raised one child to adulthood and the other isn’t far behind. As co-parents we have not always agreed and often times when we did, we agreed to disagree but one thing is for certain, we protected our kids from unnecessary friction and we have raised our children to know how much they are loved by us both. There is no argument that could possibly damage the heart or mind of a child worth fighting!
Co-Parenting isn’t a competition between two homes, It is a collaboration of parents doing what is best for the kids ~Heather Hetchler