Why Staying Together for the Kids is a Bad Idea

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Why Staying Together for the Kids is a Bad Idea

Trying to stick together for the children, even after you’ve done everything possible to resurrect your marriage, usually just makes things worse. Even when the children are shielded from the arguments, they can sense the hostility like a tense fog over the house. Some kids even report feeling relieved when hearing of their parent’s divorce, the opposite of what we picture would happen, begging them to stay together. But having things appear to be working and having them actually working are two different things. You can’t hide the truth from them. They live there, too. And they know, already. Kids have an incredible beat on what’s happening with their parents. It’s some sort of natural inclination. But to deny it is to insult their intelligence. Children also model their romantic relationships after their parents. If you stay together without any longer feeling love, commitment or any tender feelings at all towards one another, what kind of message are you sending them? Will they do the same in their future marriages or relationships? Don’t you want them to be happy and follow that happiness, wherever it may lead? If you stick together, your sacrifice is wasted. In fact, it is doing more harm than good.

There are lots of considerations when getting a divorce. There is the financial burden, which everyone will endure, including the children. It can be hard in a variety of ways. There is telling them, the possibility of moving and putting them in a new school, custody battles, and fights over asset allocation, child support and alimony. The average divorce lasts somewhere in the vicinity of six months. The most hotly debated and contentious can take years. For those in no financial condition to divorce, a separation until the means for a simple divorce can be arranged may be the best answer.  Some worry about the stigma. But today, divorce is so common the stigma has virtually evaporated. What generally happens when it is all over, or at least when a new pattern settles in, is things get better. Without living in a contentious household, the kids feel more secure. They will relax and be themselves. More focus will now be placed on them instead of on the elephant in the room. Parents can also feel that they are being upfront with their children, and the kids won’t feel lied to. There are also lots of life lessons being portrayed that can carry over into their love lives, once they grow up. Children learn to have realistic expectations for relationships, love and marriage. Too many people today have some sort of Disneyesque vision, skewing their expectations. They just are not realistic when it comes to love and relationships in the real world. But children of divorce see past all that. They are also less likely to jump into a committed relationship without thinking about it, and who with.

A divorce helps children see their parents as people. They see their parents in many different roles; sometimes as a worker, of course as a parent, a friend, child, and a sibling and when they start dating again, as a partner to someone else. In other words, the kids don’t take their vision of their parents for granted. They also recognize more closely that their parents are flawed, or to put it a better way, human. But children who see their parent’s marriage as an ideal to be lived up to, suddenly cannot choose what their heart wants. They keep chasing an ideal that they will never catch instead of the reality of love that is before them. Everyone has to find someone right for them. And those two people have to develop a relationship that works for their particular personalities. But when we try to bend a relationship to match some unrealistic ideal, things are bound to run in to trouble.

Children can see their parents more as people who have hopes, dreams, flaws and regrets. They also gather insight into how bad relationships operate and how good relationships work. Usually, parents get into other long-term relationships after divorce, or get remarried. So instead of focusing on having children coming from a “broken home,” realize that if your house is full of contention, either explicit or implicit, it is affecting the children far more negatively than you think. It’s best instead to have the courage to move on with your life, embrace who you are and after you heal, allow yourself to love again. These are great lessons to pass onto your children. They will learn to be brave, and go forth in the world to find the love that they deserve, the kind that is right for them. To learn how to operate and move forward when you have kids and a separation is looming read, The Truth About Children and Divorce: Dealing with the Emotions So You and Your Children Can Thrive by Robert Emery.

Harsh but True Reasons not to Have Kids

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Harsh but True Reasons not to Have Kids

Everyone knows all the good reasons to have children. From carrying on the family name, to bringing a completely new life into the world, to seeing the most beautiful parts of your partner and you developing in a new human being, it can be a pretty incredible experience. Lots of people get caught up in these lofty ideas however and ignore the harsh reality, the sad but true reasons many people chose not to have kids. One reason is that they are so expensive. You can go broke trying to pay for a child. One study found that having a child in America in the end costs the same as a new home. If you and your sweetie are barely squeaking out a living consider the cost before having a baby.

A psychological reason is that you will likely cause some sort of trauma to the child, like it or not, that you and they will have to live with for the rest of their lives. No one is perfect. And in fact the harder you try to be the perfect parent the more overbearing you’ll be, and the more likely to hurt your child. In this, a lot of children grow up to resent their parents. So you put all of your time, money and energy into someone who grows up to resent you? How is that even close to fair?

If you are planning to have a prosperous career or follow your passion, your energy won’t be on your kids. Likewise if you are too career minded your kids will suffer. It’s hard to have complete focus and energy on something. But when your energy is so separated than you can’t throw everything you have into something and see the most success. Another problem, you won’t have any privacy anymore, at least until they move out. And the way this economy is going that can be decades later. Everything will have to be planned around your kids. Your life as you know it will cease to exist. You can’t exactly have a life of your own anymore.

Your kid will act poorly at some point, even the best behaved. It will reflect poorly on you. Yet you will still be required to love your child. Certainly it’s important to evaluate your desire, maturity level, and the desire and the maturity level of your partner, and even your financial and living situation before deciding to have children. You have to be ready to give your everything to them. Your first concern has to be them, or else they won’t turn out right and everything will come crashing down. Certainly there are no perfect parents. If it’s the right path for you, you just have to try your best. For more advice read, Complete Without Kids: An Insider’s Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance by Ellen L. Walker, Ph.D.

When Dating a Single Mom, Look at it from the Kid’s Point of View

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When Dating a Single Mom, Look at it from the Kid’s Point of View

There are lots of things to consider when dating a single mom. If you are a person who needs considerable time or attention from the person you are dating, she may not be for you. She has other considerations single women without children do not have. If you want to have kids of your own someday that may or may not be an issue. You have to consider what her ex is like, how he will view you and what that does to the relationship, and whether her children like you or not.

There are lots of advantages to dating a single mom. More than likely she’s kind, considerate, she probably isn’t dating a whole bunch of other guys as well as you, she’s responsible, hopefully warm, and conscientious. These are all good qualities to be sure. So if you decide to date her you need to look at things from her perspective considering that she’s a mom. But you can’t forget one other additional measure. When dating a single mom, look at it from the kid’s point of view, too. Treat this child’s mom with extra consideration. Keep the child’s best interests and opinions at heart. This isn’t so much a concern for women with infants or toddlers. But with older children it’s very important. You have a mom, consider how you would want your mom to be treated by the man she’s dating and act accordingly.

Remember that her child comes first, and should. Don’t ever get between her and her child or make her choose between the two of you. That is a completely unfair choice and no one should be put in that position. Support her in her efforts rather than hinder her. Don’t try to be the child’s father. The relationship with the father could be simple or complicated. He may not even be around at all. Whatever the situation work to build your own rapport and relationship with the child or children if and when it becomes appropriate to do so.

Don’t force your way into meeting her kids. Instead, let her take the lead. When she’s comfortable go ahead and do so. Take an interest in what they are interested in. Find commonalities. If you and the child both like sports watch a game together, or take them all to a local high school or college game. Don’t try to win their love however. Spending time, being sincere, caring about them and giving your energy, patience and enthusiasm will win them over way before any big ticket purchases, and the former will last far longer and build a stronger bond. Realize that the mom is the world to these kids and treat her accordingly. She may be busy. But she deserves happiness just as much as you do, maybe even more because of the great responsibilities she has to juggle. For more advice read, It Takes Balls: Dating Single Moms and Other Confessions from an Unprepared Single Dad by Josh Wolf.

What Kids Need to Hear During a Divorce

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What Kids Need to Hear During a Divorce

Of course divorce is hard on the couple, even if it is the low-conflict kind. The divorce process is complex. Emotions run high. But no matter how you get caught up in the back-and-forth or how you feel, remember the most important and most vulnerable people that can easily fall by the wayside or even get caught in the middle are the children. It’s important to talk to them, spend time with them and let them know this isn’t their fault, and that even though things are changing they are still very much loved. Be cognizant of how the divorce is affecting your child and don’t be afraid to bring it to your ex’s attention. Even if you are splitting you will be co-parenting from now on. It’s important to develop strategies on how that is going to work for their sake. But what’s more important is supporting the children through this difficult process, answering their questions and being there for them. Here is what the kids need to hear during a divorce. No matter what age your children are, whether they are young or full grown adults let them know that the divorce isn’t their fault. How a child processes a divorce is different for each person. Lots of them use introspection. Often an insignificant incident may be perceived as the cause.  The children need to know flat out that it isn’t their fault and what the reasons are as well as you can elaborate and if their age allows.

Let them know that no matter what they are feeling, it isn’t wrong. Feelings aren’t good or bad, they just are. How we act on, deal with or cope with our feelings is what makes them good or bad. The children may feel sullen, argumentative, upset, angry or confused, or many of these emotions or different ones at different times, and that’s okay. But you have to find positive outlets for them to express these emotions. Talking to you or to a trusted confidant, playing sports, exercising, taking part in relaxation techniques, therapy, yoga or meditation can all be positive, healthy methods of dealing with these emotions. If the child’s emotions are out of hand seek out a counselor. Make sure it is someone who has experience in this regard and someone the child can connect with. Make sure that you and your ex resoundingly send the message over and over again that both of their parents love them and that nothing will change that. Remind them that each parent shows their love in the best way they know how. Each person loves differently and to compare one parent’s style to another is foolhardy and just doesn’t work. Let them know that life continues despite this divorce. They still have friends, responsibilities, hobbies and other business to attend to. This divorce is not who they are, it’s just an aspect of their life. They aren’t responsible for their parent’s marriage. In fact, it really has nothing to do with them, it’s between the two of you. Marriage can be great but it has to be with the right person. For more on this topic, pick up a copy of Talking to Your Children about Separation and Divorce: A Handbook for Parents by Risa J. Garon and the Children of Separation and Divorce Center Inc.

Co-parenting Responsibly

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Co-parenting Responsibly

Co-parenting can be difficult in light of a separation or divorce. Sometimes the tension of the divorce pushes the kids aside or sticks them in the middle, rather than making them the center of each parent’s world. But the damage that can result to their psyche’s and self-esteem can carry though to lower grades, lower income, difficulty in relationships, riskier sex lives and a higher propensity to smoke, drink and abuse drugs. Surely each person must put their own emotions aside, as difficult as that may be and commit to co-parenting responsibly. Of course this is easier said than done and sometimes the wave of emotions can overtake logic, and what’s best for the children gets pushed to the wayside before we even recognize it. To prevent this from happening sit down with your ex and plan out exactly how co-parenting will work. The children of course are the most important thing. What parent would think any differently? If you approach your ex with these ideas, and both of you commit to making the children the number one priority for both of you, the kids will be well-adjusted and a lot happier. First, decide together that you two will both commit to a supportive and compassionate co-parenting model. Your ex doesn’t have to become your enemy, nor you theirs. If both of you commit to being great parents that’s what’s most important.

Remind yourself of what positive things your ex brought to the parenting dynamic. Even if someone is a lousy spouse or partner they can still be a good parent. Recognize the positive things that this person brings into the children’s life. This is an especially poignant reminder when you are ready to kill your ex. Don’t bad mouth your ex in front of the children, as much as you’d like to. Commit a pact with your ex that you won’t do it and neither should they. Make sure when you two make decisions it has the children’s best interest in mind. No one should be unloading the kids on the other because they have a date that weekend. Each person should attend the most important events in the children’s life such as graduations, sporting events, award ceremonies and so on. All decisions should be made first with the children’s needs in mind. If you have a new partner, make sure they don’t influence the co-parenting dynamic negatively. Your ex should commit to this as well. Don’t allow your new partner to give you grief and your ex’s new partner shouldn’t bring grief into the co-parenting relationship. This is between you and your ex. You two are the parents and no matter what you both have to make things work for the children’s sake. Believe it or not it pays to do a little favor for your ex now and then. You may be totally stressed out, drowning in responsibility or caught in a pinch and need them to bail you out. Even if they aren’t your favorite person, one hand washes the other. Be respectful. Drop the kids off on time and pick them up on time. But be flexible, too. Co-parenting seems awkward and difficult at first. But once you fall into a routine it becomes just part of your life. For further reading on this topic pick up a copy of Co-Parenting Works!: Helping Your Children Thrive after Divorce by Tammy G. Daughtry.