Going through a divorce or separation is a traumatic experience that is not for the weak. Divorce is a grown-up experience that can bring us to our knees. In addition, it can hurt our kids very deeply as they have neither our years of experience nor our understanding.
If mom and dad are truly not getting back together, what do our kids want the most? Here are three I believe are very important:
- They want us to be happy. Ask any kid what stresses them out the most, it's an unhappy, stressed-out or pissed off parent. Your kids feel the most secure and happy when their parents are happy. If you have work to do in this area, you owe it to your kids to do it. It's not easy or fun to engage in therapy and other forms of post-divorce healing, but the work is worth it.
- They want our undivided time and attention. You may have heard the expression "time not things" and that's never more true than when a kid's world has been turned upside down. Make a weekly date with your kids, individually if possible, and do whatever they want to do. My daughter likes to walk around an outdoor mall, have frozen yogurt, and just talk. She tends to keep a lot inside, so when she wants to talk, I want to be listening. Make sure there are plenty of opportunities for your kids to get what they need from you, and in turn, they will feel much better about, well, everything.
- They want their parents to get along. Yes, it's possible to bury the hatchet and be civil, if not friendly, with your ex. Not quite there just yet? Work on it by taking it day by day, and in the meantime, treat your ex like you would treat a common stranger: be cordial, even friendly! (Bonus: your kids will notice and model you.) Then hire a therapist, sign up for a martial art, or find another healthy way to work through your anger, frustration, and hatred. It's hurting you and your kids far more than it's helping to hold onto unresolved negative feelings.
What your kids want the most are things money simply can't buy. Do what your kids need for you and for them.
Honorée Corder is the author of If Divorce is a Game, These are the Rules.