Parents are simply people doing their best! The hard part is, we – as children, as family members, teachers, clergy, neighbors – expect divorcing parents to know how to get through their break up perfectly. Coping with divorce in the family affects everyone and up until now, few had the luxury of available help. However, this is not your parent’s divorce. This is a different time and help is available. The best part? Parents and kids can heal from betrayal, loss, and lifestyle changes. Not a parent? Reach out to parents. Knowing what you know, you owe it to their kids. It is possible to understand the modern rite of passage we call divorce. Otherwise, divorce remains a generational disease.
How should parents handle their divorce?
Divorce can leave lifelong scars unless someone gets the help they need to heal. Given that, I wish every parent knew to get support. Healing help. Time with a coach and/or a therapist. Going to a support group. Having a safe place to share their pain with other adults so they can show up as a great parent for their kid. If a parent does not do their healing work, the legacy of their divorce gets passed onto their children.
When I was a child, few talked about divorce. Parents quickly remarried if possible or single parents struggled to make ends meet. My family was the only one to separate on the small cul-de-sac where I grew up. It was a lonely, scary, and painful time. Eventually, both parents remarried and relative normalcy returned but that doesn’t mean it didn’t affect me and my brothers and sisters.
Coping with a divorce in the family
We didn’t have the tools to talk about coping with divorce as a teenager or as a child. No one knew how to deal with breakups. Or how to get through a break up in a productive and optimistic manner. It was a tough, embarrassing, vulnerable time filled with gossip and complaining. Being sensitive to the adults around me, I wish they could have talked about it more. Or had gotten the right kind of help.
Today, there is hope for parents. They can get support! They can lean on adults going through the process instead of equally disgruntled friends to get the support and advice they need. The best part about today’s divorce, not being your parent’s divorce, is that we do understand this modern-day rite of passage. And there’s a bounty of help just because those who are helping others today, were the kids of the past. We know it’s best for kids to have healthy parents going through a supportive process.
The modern-day rite of passage we call divorce
Even though many families separate and divorce, there is still a huge misunderstanding about the experience. Parents still think the fight is about getting even, emotional justice or preventing children from seeing each other as a way to punish and victimize one another.
I believe the modern-day rite of passage we call divorce is about taking back a life that wasn’t working. It means letting go of the fight when negotiations break down and figuring out how to process, heal, and move on no matter what the circumstances. This is incredibly difficult in the heat of the fight and I’m in no way suggesting that you “om it out” over joined yoga mats during those heated moments.
Most normal people aren’t spiritually aware enough to separate without bad feelings. And resentments or hurt feelings are real and appropriate reactions to a marriage being ripped apart. Betrayal cuts deep. Loss requires grieving and pain is not always the easiest emotion to experience or process.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t heal or that you won’t. Coping with divorce means you need more help, understanding, and perspective.
This Is Not Your Parent’s Divorce
You do not need to spend your days criticizing and commiserating with other upset and disgruntled single parents. You don’t have to compare your divorce to the one your parents went through. Divorcing parents need to process and heal in a safe place (where anger is allowed) and figure out how to shift their focus toward the future not hold themselves stuck in the past.
So much easier said than done! But it’s doable. We have the luxury our parents didn’t have. Today, help specifically deals with divorcing families. There are places to go where parents can share their pain with other adults.
This way parents can show up for their kids without dumping on them. And when they mess up, which will and does happen, they’ll get the tools to right their behavior for their teenager or young adult’s eyes. Kids don’t want perfect parents. They need parents who are capable of getting themselves the support and help they need so that they can be there for them.
Otherwise, divorce becomes a generational disease
The biggest fear most divorcing parents have is that their kids will “hate them.” Every parent goes through this at one point or another. Unfortunately, they’re right, most kids do hate their parents at some point during a family’s divorce. There’s a lot of anger and hurt. An enormous let down for kids and disrupted lifestyle changes that hurt everyone involved.
But kids aren’t blind to anger, financial disparities, even being used as pawns in their parents’ fight. Kids are smart. They’ve been watching you since they were at your knee. Your children know more about your separation than you realize. They know when a parent is buying them or has taken on a new lover or is using their wealth to punish one another.
What they don’t get, however, is good role modeling during divorce. Unless a parent is in the process of healing and getting the right kind of support. Otherwise, divorce becomes a generational disease.
There aren’t many good reasons to pass your pain onto your kids to deal with anymore. You can do your work and model optimism, hope, and success for them. Your kids will face their own hardships as they mature and create their own lives. They don’t need to spend years of their lives wondering what happened to their original family and why dad/mom cheated or mom/dad was so angry.
Parents are simply people doing their best!
I get it! As a parent, when I make mistakes in front of my children, it takes everything I have to stop and apologize. I’ve had to learn how to bite my tongue and simply show up for my kids. Too often, I might have said exactly what was on my mind and needed to go to them and admit I made a mistake. But it worked. It showed them that as an adult, I was going to make mistakes and I continue to learn and grow.
My children have no illusions about our lives! They understand that my work is my work and that they don’t have to figure out what happened between their parents on their own. This is not my parent’s divorce, today I’m doing my part too.
They know that as a child, it was a lot harder and much rarer for people of my generation to have therapists. My children have had lots of support. As have I. We talk about their loss, their feelings, and make space for grieving and processing. Together we’ve shed a lot of tears but we’ve also made great new memories.
Coping with divorce: parents and kids can heal from betrayal, loss, and lifestyle changes
This is a different time and help is available. The best part? Parents and kids coping with divorce can heal from betrayal, loss, and lifestyle changes. Not a parent? Reach out to parents. Knowing what you now know, you owe it to their kids. The kids in your classrooms, your office, your neighbor. It’s important to show support to those grieving and confused or even angry single parents in your midst. They need lots of compassion. Know it’s possible to understand the modern rite of passage we call divorce. Otherwise, divorce remains a generational disease.
Laura Bonarrigo is a Certified Life Coach and a Certified Divorce Coach. Laura’s a writer, public speaker and the founder of doingDivorce™ School an online coaching program for those ready to shed the pain of divorce. For parents seeking empowering and practical ways to lose the identity of their past, visit www.doingDivorceSchool.com.