Divorce is no one’s Plan A. But it is possible to create a fabulous Plan B -- even for your children.
As parents, we can establish rhythms and routines for our newly-structured family that preserve many of the treasured aspects of the old -- and create new ones.
Some people say that they've become better parents, post-marriage. One reason? They treasure their time with their children even more, and pay more attention while with them.
Parenting while divorced may require new education, extra attention paid to your own mental and physical state, and to your children’s. You don’t want to take a “head in the sand” approach, being so enamored of your aspirations for a good divorce that you fail to notice when your kids need help. But nor should you consider them lifelong victims because their parents did not stay married. There are a lot of reasons to feel hopeful for our children.
Here are five Good Parenting Intentions we can set for ourselves:
1. Foster cooperation and quash conflict
Because we now know that conflict between the parents is one of the most damaging experiences for children, we can foster cooperation with our co-parent, and work to quash conflict.
2. Establish stability
Because we know that children benefit from stability, we can focus on establishing new routines that work in our newly structured lives.
3. Challenge yourself to be a better parent
Without a spouse around to blame for, well, everything, we can let divorce challenge us to be better parents.
4. Create positive moments
We can create positive moments for our children, as we do for ourselves, and foster engagement in outside activities and with other supportive adults.
5. Take care of the caregiver
Because we understand that being present for our children rests on our own emotional recuperation, we can prioritize taking care of the care-givers, ourselves.
Psychologist Constance Ahrons has said that most of the grown kids of divorce she tracked felt that their parents made the right decision. “They felt that they were better off and that their parents were better off. This was about 75- to 78-percent of the kids who spoke about these kinds of feelings. Because the bad divorces get so much more exposure we think of them as the norm, but in fact they are not.”
* A version of this post originally appeared on Wendy Paris's website, wendyparis.com.
Wendy Paris is the author of Splitopia: Dispatches from Today's Good Divorce and How to Part Well (Simon & Schuster/Atria, 2016). Splitopia and her work on divorce have been covered by The New York Times, Real Simple, The Washington Post, The New York Post, The Globe & Mail, Psychology Today, The Houston Chronicle, Salon.com, Parents.com, Family Law Quarterly, PsychCentral.com and radio and TV shows nationwide. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and is an advocate for family law reform. She is divorced, and lives in Santa Monica, California, a few blocks from her former husband, with whom she has a warm co-parenting relationship.