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Challenge: What Makes a Family?

Keeping Your Family Together After a Divorce

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by Nanda Davis, Licensed Divorce Attorney & Founder of Davis Law Practice

Divorce can be a painful and complicated transition for everyone affected—especially when children are involved. But a separation between parents does not have to mean a breakdown of coparenting.

Although tensions and emotions are high during the initial stages of a divorce, the process can unfold with relationships intact and mutual respect sustained. In my practice, I have seen parents put aside their differences to work together to make decisions for their children, so I know it’s achievable.

If you have children and are going through the aftermath of a divorce right now, here are some tips on how to maintain a bit of normalcy in their lives. If you and your spouse work together, you can keep your the family together without sacrificing your own future happiness.

Decide How to Manage Joint Activities

Whether it’s a celebration like a birthday or a function like a soccer game or piano recital, agreeing to support your children together in their milestones and activities will send the message that you’re both still in their corner even if the dynamics have changed. As the event approaches, find a time to suspend lingering tensions and politely discuss how to make the experience positive for your children. A few helpful things you can do include deciding not to discuss your divorce/relationship, talking about how to sidestep any triggers that have caused fights in the past, and making a promise that you each will show kindness and courtesy toward the other person, no matter what.

Encourage an Open and Honest Line of Communication

While you need to protect children from the impact of adult issues surrounding a divorce, it’s crucial to make sure they know that you’re willing to answer their questions, help them process emotions and engage in difficult conversations when needed. As feelings of sadness, grief or even nostalgia surface, reassure them it’s common to experience this and guide them through exploring that sense of loss. If they articulate a desire for reconciliation of your marriage, don’t avoid the topic or steer the dialogue in a less risky direction. Instead acknowledge their pain and ease them into acceptance of this new reality. Children often want to know that they are being heard and that their parents are taking them seriously, even if life does not turn out as they hope.

Make Unified Decisions in the Children’s Best Interest

While you might have differing opinions on how to raise the children, make a firm agreement with each other to choose whatever course of action is most beneficial for them, not filtered through a personal bias. For instance, if you would rather they attend a private school, but your co-parent wants a public school environment, instead of just arguing for your preference, mutually decide to consider both options. You can both weigh the educational, social, financial and extra-curricular aspects of each, then together, make an informed decision that gives your children the best academic experience.

Emphasize Step-Parents as Bonuses, Not Replacements

If one or both co-parents chooses to remarry at some point, the introduction of step-families can add even more uncertainty as the children adjust to their shifting definition of “normal,” so it’s essential to include them in this process as the household expands. If you are the person getting remarried, communicate to your children that a new step-parent is not a substitution for their biological mom or dad, but an added benefit of a growing family. And if you are not the person getting remarried, grant your children permission to build a healthy relationship with their step-parent without assuming you’ve been replaced.

When both parents are dedicated to finding compromise and closure in the midst of transition, it’s possible to raise children together in a dynamic that feels safe, secure and stable.

I have watched divorced parents heal from their disagreements, move beyond their differences and establish a unified front when it comes to supporting their children. Families might change and blend over time, but this doesn’t mean relationships are severed—in fact, in some cases, an amicable divorce can restore harmony to all of your lives.

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