One of the first things I did once I made the decision to divorce my husband was do some research on children of divorce and what I could do to make sure that my daughter was okay. Being a child of divorce myself, I was fully aware of the negative effects it could have on children, and I was praying that I would find some evidence to the contrary. Unfortunately, the evidence that I found wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear.
I found research that gave me hope, but also made me take a hard look at what I was doing. One study compared four groups of young adults. The first group consisted of young adults raised in an intact family where their parents got along and co-parented well. The second group consisted of young adults raised in an intact family where the parents fought constantly.
The third group consisted of young adults raised in a divorced single parent household where their parents got along and co-parented well. And the last group consisted of young adults raised in a divorced single parent household where the parents fought constantly.
The results showed that whether the parents were married or divorced made no difference, it was the quality of the co-parenting and the absence or presence of the fighting and arguing that made the difference. The dysfunctional behavior of the children directly correlated to the dysfunctional behavior of the parents. The young adults who were raised in a two biological parent loving household thrived and did well, but so did the young adults raised in the divorced single parent household, where the parents co-parented well and didn’t fight (This is also discussed in the online course “Divorce Recovery”)
What is the moral of the story? It can be extremely difficult to stay civil towards your ex during a divorce but at the end of the day, the well-being of your child(ren) depends on it. For years, we’ve been taught that divorce is terrible and the child(ren) are doomed. But what I have found is that most of the time when people say this, they are talking about children, they are not talking about adults. But our job as parents isn’t to focus on raising great kids but to do our best to prepare our kids to be great adults. So at the end of the day, the people that we should be looking at are not the children of divorce, but the adults of divorce. As children, yes, the divorce will be something that they will have to work through and it will likely be difficult. But we can help them through it. However, our greatest concern is how they will turn out as adults. What kind of spouse will they be? What kind of parent will they be? But the secret is that most of who they will be will be modeled by us.
When I first separated from my husband, it was extremely hard to keep the peace. I felt like the passive wife who was fed up and finally ready to let loose and give him a piece of my mind. One thing that helped me a lot was the book “Boundaries,” by Dr. Henry Cloud. It taught me that if I had any hope of co-parenting in a healthy way with my ex, I was going to have to set some boundaries and then some consequences if those lines were crossed. I was tired of feeling like I was being disrespected and taken advantage of, but I didn’t know how to demand the respect that I deserved without spewing my frustrations out in anger. Once I learned to calmly communicate what my expectations were for our co-parenting relationship, and make it clear that I wouldn’t accept anything less, my ex was able to do that same and we were able to co-parent like adults, rather than fighting like children. Was is easy, absolutely not, but it was worth it. Our daughter’s behavior calmed drastically once we started acting like adults. So, as difficult as it may be, we need to make peace with the enemy.