On Parenting: Meghan Leahy takes your questions about parenting

Hello! Sorry for this transition, and congrats on making positive decisions for your life and your family.

So, there a million resources out there for this…and here is a bit of good news: for better or worse, your children have reached the age of reason. Unlike many children under seven (who are purely emotional), your children are going to be in pain, absolutely, but their prefrontal cortexes are going to really help them take in the logic of this decision, as well as help them regulate their big emotions.

Does this mean that your children will just sail along, no problem? I don’t know. But from most of the evidence out there, divorce is bumpy for everyone.

Whatever resource you use, it must have this kind of feel:

1) ALL FEELINGS WELCOME: if the children are happy you are divorcing one day, and pissed as heck the other…so be it. 

2) YOUR FEELINGS ARE NOT THEIR RESPONSIBILITY: you need your own therapist and friends. Your children should never shoulder one moment of anger or resentment. OF course, you are human, but do your best.

3) DON’T TAKE EVERYTHING PERSONALLY. Your children may say that want mom over dad, or that you are too strict, or that mom loves them more or dad is more fun…these are cries for connection, not reaction.

4) DON’T SPOIL THE CHILDREN OUT OF GUILT OR TO GARNER FAVOR. Yes, this may be traumatic, but gifts do not help long terms feelings; in fact, it will make everything worse.

5) THE MORE YOU CONCENTRATE ON MAINTAINING A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR EX, THE MORE REGULATED THE CHILDREN WILL BE. Notice I didn’t write happy. We are not going for happy as a state, that’s unreasonable, I mean, you almost have tweens and teens. What you are going for is stability, regularity, and continuity. You and your ex are different people; that’s fine. But as much as a compassionate and united front you can create, the better.

6) BE READY FOR THIS NESTING THING TO NOT WORK. Maybe it will work and be awesome. Maybe it is a stepping stone to something else. But remember: children are flexible as long as they feel their parents are in control. So, treat everything as an experiment and don’t be afraid to ask the children how they feel.

7) PERUSE BOOKS AND THERAPISTS, BUT/AND TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. You know your family and children best. Yes, look for signs of struggling, loop in the school and other adults who need to know (coaches, etc.), but you may not need to go full-press psychoanalysis out of the gate. JUST STAY OPEN AND AWARE.

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