Your Behavior, Your Kids and Divorce

06/13/2013 11:14 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Ask anyone who's been through it, and they'll tell you one of the most gut-wrenching aspects of separation and divorce is figuring out how to co-parent going forward. It can bring out the worst in the best of us.

While married, most parents understand the importance of modeling good behavior and providing a calm, stable environment for their kids. It's how we give our kids the best chance of growing into healthy, happy, well-adjusted adults.

Yet enter a family breakup and, for many parents, behaving well for the kids sake often becomes next to impossible. Seeing Mom or Dad lose it is what gives our kids tummy aches, sleepless nights and it hurts their chances of settling into a loving relationship of their own one day.

Now, imagine how scary it is for a kid, dealing with their own world coming apart, to see Mom, Dad or both, morph from a loving anchor into an angry, vengeful, out-of-control human. Not a pretty picture .. and it's heart breaking for kids.

Next, focus on what studies tell us. Experts say what hurts kids the most is hostile parental conflict, getting caught in the middle, hearing their parents bad-mouth each other and having to parent their parent(s). Simply put, it's parental behavior, not divorce itself, that harms kids ... be they age 8 or age 30.

You're human, and emotions are raw, so what do you do? Stepping back and looking at it from your child's perspective is one of the greatest gifts your can give your child.

The video Spare the Child (below) helps you do that. Produced for parents, by the VA State Bar Family Law Section, with a grant from the VA Law Foundation, it's definitely worth a watch. Also check out Brilliant Exits Kids & Co-Parenting page for tips and links to great, free resources.

Oh, and one last tool to get you through it all. Repeat to yourself: "I love my kids more than I hate my spouse."
It really does put it all in perspective.