If you’re reading this and you are about to embark on the hellish process that is divorce then stock up on these three essential items: tissues, wine and a shit-load of inner strength because you are going to need them all in bulk.
Divorce is more painful than giving birth and running a marathon at the same time. I’d do either of those things in a heartbeat before I’d do the whole divorce thing again.
But if that’s how I feel then how the hell must it feel for an innocent child who loves both their parents to bits and whose world has just been as shattered too.
I have learnt any advice I give the hard way. I have made mistakes, I have screamed at my ex in front of my child, I have allowed myself to be intimidated in front of my child and I have sobbed in front of my child (thank god I could pretend I was ’happy’ crying).
But I do believe it is absolutely possible to guide a child through divorce without them knowing the pain you are inevitably both feeling.
Learn from my mistakes:
1. Do not have arguments in front of your children
This seems totally obvious and goes without saying but when emotions are running high and one of you makes a tiny sarcastic comment, it can get blown out of proportion. Before you know it you’re in a bubble of hate and hurling insults at each other and bringing up the past left, right and centre. You can’t see it but your children absolutely can. Imagine watching your two favourite people fighting and not being able to stop it…that’s how your children feels watching a parental argument.
2. Put a brave face on
Even if you feel like giving your ex the world’s worst Chinese burn until they beg for mercy…smile. Pretend that your best pals because your child will believe that you are and they’ll smile too.
3. Put a positive spin on all new changes
I can clearly remember the first weekend my daughter spent at her dad’s new flat and I felt sick to my stomach and had no idea how to make her understand her new world. The only way through was to make it as exciting as possible, e.g. “You’ve got a new bedroom to decorate, how cool is that?” and “You’ll get to have two Christmas Days rather than just one! You’re so lucky!”. Even though you feel the exact opposite to that, say it, make it amazing for them. They deserve it.
4. Allow them to enjoy spending time with their other parent
Children worry that they can’t enjoy themselves when they’re away from you. Or they worry that you are going to be sad when they’re with their other parent (which is mostly true!) but don’t let them know it. When they leave, tell them that you love them loads and that you want them to have an awesome weekend and tell you all about it!
5. Ensure they still feel they have a family
This is something I have always said to B as fairly early on she asked me if our separation meant that she no longer had a family (a heartbreak moment for me). I drill it in to her that families come in all shapes and sizes and that her family just happens to live in different houses. The look of relief on her face when she hears that is incredible.
6. Always allow them to talk through their feelings
You know when your child needs to talk, it might be a dreamy stare into space or that they’re unusually quiet one evening. Ask them if there is anything worrying them or if they want to talk about anything. You’ll be amazed what flows out of them and the worries that you can put to rest for them.
I can’t promise that these tips will give you a smooth sail through divorce as a parent. But I bloody well wish I’d known this before I embarked upon the rough and unforgiving sea of divorce.
You can and will get through it and when you do you will be a million times stronger than you were before.
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Jessica is a single and divorced mum of one very gorgeous and very ginger 5 year old girl, living in Norfolk. She is also a full time high school teacher, lover of singing, Tom Hardy and master Lego builder. You can follow her on Instagram and here’s her fabulous blog
Image credit: Jessica Watts