A new approach can improve post-divorce life for the whole family.
I want to tell you something important: I know what a bad divorce can be like for a child. My parents continued their warfare for 45 years, until Mom was no longer alive. My 95-year-old dad referred to my mom as “the nightmare” until just a few years ago when I asked him to stop.
Whatever the reasons for your divorce, I know you and your spouse love your children. And they love you both. In my work as a child psychologist, I have seen the wreckage and chaos caused by parents who deeply love their children and who can’t control the anger, guilt, and grief of a failed marriage. I have seen children helplessly caught in loyalty conflicts, children who often react by acting out themselves or becoming clinically depressed. It breaks my heart when a child tells me about his or her parents’ arguments, or how it hurts them when Mom and Dad can’t sit together at their soccer games. The child is painfully torn. “Who do I sit with during the half time?”
Divorce Has Become the Norm
Sadly, almost half of all first marriages end in divorce, and the statistics are worse for subsequent marriages. The reality is that divorce in America has become the norm. It might be the new “norm” but it isn’t less painful for families. For years, my clinical practice was crowded with adults and children suffering from the effects of high conflict divorces. I kept thinking there had to be a better way to divorce.
What Would a Better Divorce Look Like?
Parents would resolve their differences respectfully without going to court, without using the threat of litigation to intimidate or punish the other. In a good divorce, parents would continue to parent their children together, learn to communicate with respect, give each other the benefit of the doubt, keep their conflicts away from the children, support the children’s relationships with all family members, and work to rebuild trust as partners in the raising of their children. The children would feel that their family was still one family, under two roofs. Can you make that happen? It probably means setting aside your own feelings or taking your feelings someplace where you can work them through.
Collaborative Practice Is a Way of Resolving Disputes Without Going to Court
Am I naïve or overly idealistic? Luckily, it turns out that a growing number of families are opting for just this kind of collaborative divorce. In a collaborative divorce, parents work together with professionals to resolve their legal, financial and emotional issues in a way that is respectful and honors the right of children and families to heal and grow in a stable and restructured family. In my work as a collaborative divorce coach on these teams, I have found my own healing from the trauma of my parents’ and my own divorce. I have seen a growing community of attorneys and other professionals passionately committed to the health and welfare of children and families going through a divorce. More importantly, I have witnessed the deep commitment of parents to work together to raise their children without the trauma of ongoing strife and conflict. If only my parents had been able to do this; if only all parents were able to divorce respectfully, collaboratively. Can you?