This article is for parenting relationships that remain more difficult even with your best efforts. When you are dealing with someone with anger management issues, infidelity issues, bi-polar disorder, addiction issues or they are abusive and narcissistic it is likely that there will be some on-going struggles. Struggles not just between you and your ex but perhaps between the kids and their dad.
First you want to learn to navigate your struggles so that you are not living in a reactive relationship with your ex. Bill Eddy has a system for responding to contentious communication called B.I.F.F. BIFF stands for Brief, Informative, Firm and Friendly. Once you learn to respond to the issue at hand and not the attitude or emotional load that may accompany it, you are half way there.
Reacting When Our Children Are Hurt:
But what happens when your son or daughter gets caught in the snags of their father’s hurtful words or actions? The initial reaction is for your MAMA BEAR to come out in full force, ready to defend your cub…and this makes sense. If calmer heads prevail, however, I contend that you can make lemonade out of lemons.
I have considered myself a mother and crisis manager since my divorce. Crisis management used to happen each time my children returned from their father’s house. They came in with a hostile energy, fighting with each other and being angry and disrespectful to me. I quickly saw that they needed to recalibrate to the energy of my home and forgave them for coming home with a different energy.
I also realized something very important…“How you do something is how you do everything.” So even though my ex would never have spoken abusively to his toddlers and grade school children, as they got older and developed their own sense of self and boundaries, they too became fair game.
How to Make Lemonade From Lemons:
Instead of focusing on dad’s hurtful actions or words, use every situation to teach your children something. Perhaps it is boundaries. Other times it is helping them to articulate how they feel, what hurts and what they want to change. Sometimes it is helping them to find their voice and speak their truth. With this last one comes the lesson that, just because you say it, doesn’t mean that dad is going to change…say it anyway.
Because it is your truth and you are always best served by speaking your truth. Then surrender the outcome; you have no control over another person’s actions.
I came to the realization that if I could teach my children to learn to navigate their dad…who loves them dearly, they would be so far ahead of the average adult. In 12 step programs they tell you to ‘take what you like and leave the rest.’
Learning to accept someone for who they are; to understand that just because someone loves you doesn’t mean they are capable of loving you the way you want or deserve to be loved; and being aware that you always have a choice about how YOU are going to act regardless of what the other person does or doesn’t do; are the treasures hidden in the muck of difficult situations.
The key is keeping the focus on your children and what they can do and not on your ex and what he is doing. Choosing to stay away from the ‘story’ of what happened and the ‘drama’ that accompanies it and instead focusing on the life lesson will empower your children to be healthier in all their relationships.
In this way, we can look at whatever comes our way and say….”It’s all good.”