Many divorcees worry a lot about what would happen to their kids after their breakups. However, it is not all dire. Kids are very perceptive and divorce has these positive impacts on them. Take a read!
The following is a guest blog by Heather Tannenbaum, a Markham, Ont.-based CDC Certified Divorce Coach.
Divorcing, whether the decision was yours or it was made for you, always brings with it much emotional turmoil and scary change. Fear of the unknown road ahead is often paralyzing, and the uncertainty can be overwhelming.
What I hear very often from clients is that their number one fear is “will my kids be OK?” There’s a tremendous amount of guilt that falls on a parent’s shoulders when we realize that we won’t be providing our children with the happy family life that we envisioned for them. The decision to divorce carries with it the fears that we have destroyed our children’s childhood, and possibly even their ability to have healthy relationships of their own.
What if, however, we were able to use our divorce as an opportunity to teach our children key skills and life lessons that they otherwise may not have experienced? I’m not minimizing the possible adverse effects of divorce on children, nor am I suggesting that your divorce will be a seamless transition but when faced with this traumatic event, it’s always best to find some silver linings and capitalize on them. Below, are three silver linings that I have found both through my own family and my professional practice:
Resilience is one’s ability to recover or bounce back from a traumatic experience. Divorce can certainly be traumatizing but it can also be an opportunity to teach our kids valuable life skills about how to respond to such events. If our kids can see us making the best of a bad situation, we give them the gift of choice by modeling this for them.
For example, some time ago I asked several children of divorce (with permission from their parents) what having divorced parents meant to them. One child (11 years old) said that it meant that they had two bedrooms to keep all their stuff, which was good because they now got double the amount of gifts. This shows how kids can learn to adapt and find silver linings, at any cognitive stage of development.
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We often hear about the stress that moving between two homes can put on a child, but if done well, we can use this as another opportunity to teach our children about flexibility. As much as we would love for there to be consistency between homes with rules, schedules, eating habits and screen time, unfortunately, it’s often not the case.
More times than not kids are held to different standards, parenting styles and expectations in each home. While this can be confusing and stressful for the child, it can also be a perfect life lesson in flexibility that will serve them well in a much broader scope. Our kids can adapt with more ease to rules when they stay at a friend’s house, go to summer camp or have to contend with roommates in university and colleagues in the workplace. It is my belief that children of divorce are better equipped to adapt to a variety of rules, expectations and styles and we’re able to teach our children this when we divorce.
3. Time management, organization and planning
In terms of life skills, these are biggies. Kids who have to shuffle between two homes are forced to be more organized by the very nature of the situation. I can’t tell you how many times I would get phone calls from my kids when they were with their dad which went something like this; “Mommy, I forgot my homework book. Can you please bring it to Daddy’s?” or “Mommy, tomorrow is Pink Shirt Day at school and none of my pink shirts are here. Can you bring me one?” When my kids were younger, these types of requests would inevitably result in me taking them what they needed. But not everyone’s parents live in close proximity and this option is often not available. As my kids grew, this option no longer became available to them either because they had to be responsible for their own stuff. Not always an easy thing to plan and execute, especially for kids, but it has most definitely served them well.
I am not suggesting that divorce is without its drawbacks for children, nor am I suggesting that our children are better off for having their parents divorce (though this can most definitely be the case in many situations). I am, however, saying that there are positives that can be taken away from the situation. We tend to focus on the negative aspects of how our divorce will affect our children but there are so many good things that they can take away from the experience. Divorce doesn’t have to hurt your children and learning to cope with what’s in front of them can bring about positive changes and habits.
Good luck on your journey to your new normal and may you find peace and happiness at every step along the way.
Heather Tannenbaum is a CDC Certified Divorce Coach and the author of Reconstructing Happy: How to Use Your Divorce as an Opportunity to Build a Better You. Heather works alongside her clients to help them stay focused and make sound decisions during their divorce, providing them with the tools, resources and professionals they need to save time, money and unnecessary stress. For more information on Heather’s work, please visit her website.