What is My Child’s Divorce Story?

{2:24 minutes to read} We all know that divorce is hard on kids. My clients truly worry about their children and want to put their children first. But it can be really hard to do that. When we feel threatened ourselves—at risk, angry and scared—it can be really hard to keep ourselves, as parents, out of the emotional fray and remember our priorities.

I like to ask my clients to write a story they would like their children to tell about their parents’ divorce:

If this was very successful, and you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse were to get through a divorce in a way that minimized the difficulty and pain for your children, and supported them in the best way you possibly could, what would they say about your divorce? What would they say about your personal actions? What would you want that to be?

From my experience, these are hard questions. Oftentimes, what my clients would want their children to say about them, individually and as parents together, is not what is actually happening.

I conducted a survey of adult children of divorced parents and asked them two primary questions:

1. If you could go back in time and tell your parents something that would make their divorce better for you, what would it be?

Here are some of the answers I received:

“You shouldn’t have pretended all was well for 14 years and then dropped the news on us like a bomb.”

“Being transparent is sad at times, but feels better than wondering why everything is happening.”

“Please don’t rely on me for emotional support in this difficult time.”

“Be mindful of your words. Don’t talk about each other. Keep me out of it.”

“Stop fighting and share parenting time.”

2. Is there anything your parents did well that you would tell them to do more of?

Again, some answers:

“You made sure we had contact with both parents.”

“You were sensitive to my staying in the same neighborhood and letting me go to the same school with my friends.”

“You gave me the independence that, at the time, made me feel loved.”

“You stayed friends.”

“You didn’t make us take sides.”

“You were civil at graduations and big events.”

I think it really helps to have some sense of the child’s perspective. If you can do that even when it is hard (and believe me, it will be hard at times), you will feel not only like you stood up and were there for your kids, they will also be more successful and feel much better after the divorce.