Of course, children have to come first. As a parent in divorce, your little ones need food, shelter, and safety. They also need a really strong parent. They need one who has their own emotional well-being steady and calm.
Kids want to feel the presence of a calm parent, not the energy of one “out to extract a pound of flesh.” Kids don’t want to be used against their other parent. Putting your children first means putting on that Halloween costume and taking them trick or treating, even when you’d rather hide at home with a glass of wine.
As a parent in divorce, don’t be afraid of the dark this Halloween.
More often than not in “putting the children first” grieving and angry parents forget that they are hurting too. They forget that their children will be in a relationship with their ex and love their other parent. Friends and family forget that the divorcing adult trick or treating at their front door is in incredible pain, even spinning.
Neighbors and friends may have no idea how difficult it is perhaps to get out of bed in the morning. To face the bills or to manage single parenting on their own. Stressed and frightened, it’s never just the children. The difficulties are also never about the relationship between the children and the ex.
We all need support during the dark days. Find a place where you can selfishly heal and get help.
Without support, a parent in divorce tends to blame themselves or seek to blame the other parent for the hurt. They lose perspective on what the future offers. It’s tough to sleep. Moreover, they may have a hard time at work. Oftentimes the stress spills over and they become frightened of everyone and everything. Then it’s easy to start down the road of self-incrimination or anger. Losing faith, hope, and trust.
Without support a parent in divorce uses language like, “for the kids’ safety” or “I want to protect the kids” to justify every argument in court. They forget that the only person they get to protect or control is themselves. Without support, it becomes a constant struggle to balance reacting to information and being proactive with one’s life. Especially when anger is the predominant theme and a single parent is at the beginning of the process.
Here’s the truth: unless a parent has physically or sexually abused a child and the courts know it, and it can be proved, and even then, a child will always be in a relationship with a parent who wants to see their kids.
I think that’s what the trick is about and why those in divorce need lots of treats.
“Putting the children first” looks like not using them as pawns or reasons to be petty and play small. It means accepting they are their own human beings with their own perceptions, feelings, and future. We all say we know that. You’re probably thinking that I don’t know your particular circumstances and you’d never harm your kids. Because you’re protecting them from… monsters and goblins and (fill in the blank). But I was once a kid in divorce and I remember how bad it felt to be used.
Really protecting them means finding child therapists and attorneys who represent them in court. While you take care of yourself elsewhere. Instead of only indulging the angry or self-righteous reactions you have at the moment. It means not bad mouthing your ex around your kids. And allowing your children to develop their own perceptions of their other parent. Eventually, they will have to figure out for themselves the kind of people they want to hang out with.
Additionally, it means protecting yourself from your own feelings of anger and revenge. Because no matter what, your children will have their own relationship with their other parent. It’s not your relationship and you can’t stop it even if your son or daughter never see them again.
We are connected to our parents and the memories of our parents for a lifetime.
So find some help. A place to put things into a big perspective. You need a place to have time and space away from the anger and worry. Somewhere to imagine what becoming bigger might look like. Then try it on for size the way you wear a Halloween costume to please your little one. You need a place where you can think and look at options. A place for you to accept your role as a parent.
These aren’t easy days and these concepts aren’t as easy to hold onto as one might wish. They take a while to become strong and they’re a little tough to keep. But I promise you can do it. You can “put your children first” by stepping into being selfish. Go ahead! Get yourself the support to create a new perspective of what this time in your life can become.