Guest Post: A Golden Rule for Divorced Parents

meter-106419_640I first heard about Tim Lemire and his efforts a few months ago when he contacted me about an article about divorced dads I had published on The Huffington Post. You can read that here.

For the past year, Tim has been working to push legislators and the General Assembly in his home state of Rhode Island to adopt an initiative to require divorce and coparenting education for divorcing parents in the family court system. This, no doubt, is a steep uphill battle and I applaud his brave efforts to bring about precious positive change for the sake of the children.

He has written a very thoughtful piece about coparenting and I wanted to share it!

Here is what Tim has to say….

We grown-ups are aware that from time to time, we imitate our parents — and not always voluntarily.

If we are also parents, we want our own children to imitate us … but only in good ways. We do our best, therefore, to model good behavior for them.

If we are divorced parents, we can do this by repeating to ourselves the following: The way I treat my former spouse is how I want my children to treat me.

That doesn’t mean that on your ex’s next birthday, you need to send flowers or a candygram. It doesn’t mean you need to erase your mind’s every negative thought about your ex because that’s what you want your kids to do with you.

Here’s what it does mean:

  • When you badmouth your ex, you teach your children, “It’s OK to call a parent names and to talk about them critically and negatively.”
  • When your children hear you assigning bad motives to your ex, you teach your children to be cynical and suspicious of a parent.
  • When you use Family Court not to resolve disagreements constructively but rather to bully, intimidate, and bankrupt your ex, you are teaching your children that lawsuits are how to resolve disagreements with a parent.
  • When you shut your ex out of your children’s lives — not because your ex poses any threat to your children’s safety, but because you wish to punish your ex — you are teaching your kids, “It’s perfectly OK to cut a parent out of your life.

    If you do any or all of the above, don’t be surprised one day at how critical, cold of heart, or distant your children have become toward you.”

    You are the one who taught them.

    Children learn from both parents, which is why it’s important for both members of a divorced couple to be civil, respectful, fair, and cooperative.

    This golden rule may be the one thing you and your ex can agree on.

    It may not be easy. It may, in fact, be quite hard. But how you handle challenging situations is also something your children are to looking to you, to your example, to learn from.

    If your children become adults who are compassionate and kind, cooperative and collaborative, patient and understanding, would you like them to say they learned all that from you — or from anyone but you?

    Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” — James Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes from a Native Son (1961)

    TIM LEMIRE is a writer and visual artist based in Providence, Rhode Island. He is currently working to reform family law in his home state. You can hear more from him on This I Believe.

 

4 Things to Curb Worry When the Kids are With the Other Parent

I remember years ago, sitting in my car at a neutral location, waiting for the visitation exchange with my daughter. I came to realize with time that we were not the only ones to use this particular parking lot. I saw others waiting in their cars. Oh we never acknowledged each other but still I felt connected to them. It was as if we were all proverbial ghosts drifting along at the same place but in our own little world, seeing yet not seeing each other.

Some of you reading this will know exactly what I’m talking about. Still other parents go and pick up their kids for their parenting time and drop them back off when it’s over like my husband does with my stepson. Or maybe you are the parent who gets your son or daughter ready and packed up to go when the other parent arrives like I do with my son.

No matter how you do it, this time, this situation seems to stir up worry. We sometimes worry about issues that may come back with our child. Or we worry if they will have a good time? Will they be upset? How long will it take for them to decompress and settle?

Let’s face it, honestly it is natural to worry when your children aren’t with you. Don’t beat yourself up. For me, the worrying went to another level after my son’s brain surgery, and even now my anxiety creeps up because of it. However, several months ago, during my prayer time, God spoke to me on 4 simple things that have helped me in overcoming my worry and anxiety when my children aren’t with me.

1. Remember the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal should be to make sure the children in the middle get time to cultivate a lasting healthy loving relationship by spending quality time with their other parent. When you keep your eyes focused on that end goal it makes it a little easier to not sweat the small stuff such as how they don’t do the same things you do in your home the way you think they should be done.

2. Focus on the positives and focus on you. Instead of letting your mind obsess over what might be going wrong, try to focus on memories they are making with their dad or mom. Also, this is a time you can be completely selfish. This is a time to go shopping and buy something just for you, or put your feet up and enjoy an UNINTERRUPTED movie (cause you know that don’t happen when the kids are there). If you are dipping your toes back in the dating pool, this time is a great time to go out on a date and get to know someone new.

3. Pray. It is simple but “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”. We pray over so many things in our lives. Why not pray for our children and their dad that God will bless that relationship, give their mom wisdom, and a hedge of protection around them. Prayer is a wonderful thing because it isn’t a menial task or list of wishes. The attitude shouldn’t be well all I can do is pray. It should be an attitude of gratefulness that we have such a powerful tool, to go before the Creator of the universe on behalf of our children in the face of our worry.

4. Remember that they are never alone. This one truth is the most important and has brought so much comfort to me when I just could not shake the worry. God is always there and goes where you cannot! You never send them to the other house alone. There is nothing going on over there that God doesn’t know about.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13

And let’s just go there for a minute. You may be reading this and saying how he or she treats the kids when they are there or how they bad mouth you or all the bad stuff that I honestly know goes on in some homes sometimes. GOD. SEES. THAT. TOO.

Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute—you’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you. Psalm 139:7-12 (MSG)

Being divorced with kids is very hard and yes we are going to worry like crazy sometimes. But it’s important to remember that just because you are no longer together you still have the same end in mind as when you first had children and that is they grow up to be happy, healthy, productive individuals. So do what you can and let God handle the rest.