Teaching Children of Divorce How to Make Healthier Choices in Relationships
One of the reasons many people stay married long after their marriages fail is fear. And one of the biggest fears is that divorce will destroy their kids. The problem is, staying in a bad marriage can have an equally – if not more severe – negative impact on your children. My divorce mediator once told me that children are like the doormen of your building – they hear and see everything! How true. No matter what we think we’re hiding from them, children feel the tension, contempt, and distance between you and your spouse. Divorce is often the best thing for children, especially if you and your ex can put your children’s needs first.
The primary motivation for me to stay married for 23 years was my concern that my kids would be severely effected by divorce. In fact, a divorce lawyer friend of mine advised me to wait until my youngest graduated high school. She said that whatever problems we had in our marriage would be exacerbated by divorce. She had seen the worst of the worst custody cases, and I understand why she told me what she did.
But in my case, it turned out to be bad advice. It would have meant staying married for another 12 years. I waited 7. Divorce was difficult, but I was barely alive in my marriage. We just couldn’t make the marriage work, and my kids felt it. When I filed for divorce, my kids were not surprised at all.
Better relationships for children of divorce
The good news is that my relationship with my kids has never been better. I’ve put a lot of hard work into supporting their emotional stability. I didn’t date for the first two years following my divorce, because I wanted to make sure they were okay before jumping into a new relationship.
When I was ready to date, I made a promise to my kids. I would never introduce them to anyone unless it was serious. I’ve kept to that promise, and they’re grateful that they haven’t had to witness a revolving door of dates coming through my life and theirs.
The most important thing for me is that my kids have the relationship skills to do better than I did. I am grateful that so far, they have made excellent choices in romantic partners.
My oldest daughter just celebrated her fourth wedding anniversary. She and her husband have excellent communication skills, and they’re able to work out differences with ease. They are very much in love and are terrific parents to my gorgeous 7-month old granddaughter. I’m very proud of them.
My youngest daughter is in a fantastic relationship. Her new boyfriend adores her and treats her with respect. He inspires her to be her best, and I’ve never seen her work so hard in school. When she contracted pneumonia at the end of last semester and had to leave school a week early, he came to visit. I sensed the sweet concern and care he has for her, and I’m so happy for them.
My son isn’t in a relationship right now, but when he does find the right woman, she will be a lucky girl. He is sensitive, kind, and has a very generous heart and soul. He is willing to talk out differences, and he truly cares about his friends’ well being. I’m not worried about his future at all.
So, how do you teach children of divorce the relationship skills that will help them make better choices? Mostly, I feel we need to model what we want our kids to know about healthy relationships. And we need to keep the conversation open and ongoing so they feel safe to voice their questions and concerns.
Please check out the tips I share in this video and I’d appreciate any comments. I’d love to hear what you think about how we can teach our children the relationship skills they need to have healthier relationships and make better choices in a romantic partner.