Fear. It’s one of the main reasons why so many people stay married long after their marriages fall apart. And one of the biggest fears is that divorce will harm the kids. The problem is, staying in a bad marriage can have an equally – if not more severe – negative impact on your children. My divorce mediator once said, “Children are like the doormen of your building – they hear and see everything.” How true.
No matter what you think you’re hiding from them, children can feel the tension, contempt, and distance between you and your spouse. Divorce is often the best thing for children, especially if you and your ex are able to put your children’s needs first.
The primary reason I stayed married for 23 years was the fear that my kids would be negatively affected by divorce. A close friend who happened to be a divorce lawyer advised me to wait until my youngest graduated from high school. She said whatever problems we had in our marriage would be exacerbated by divorce. She had seen the worst of the worst custody cases, and she didn’t want my kids to suffer.
I understand. For some people, that would be good advice. In my case, it wasn’t. I had lost myself in my marriage. I began leaving the house almost every night of the week just to survive.
Israeli dance on Monday, PTA on Tuesday, volunteering for my synagogue on Wednesday, some other committee on Thursday. It was ridiculous. I was running away from home to save myself.
I finally had the courage to leave.
Divorce was challenging (most are), but with time, my kids are doing better than I ever imagined.
Teaching Children of Divorce to Make Healthy Relationship Choices
My relationship with my kids has never been better. We respect each other so much more than when we were a two parent family. I’ve put a lot of hard work into supporting them emotionally. I didn’t date for the first two years. I wanted to make sure they were emotionally stable before jumping into a new relationship.
When I was finally ready to date, I made a promise to my kids. I would never introduce them to anyone unless it was serious.
I’ve kept to that promise, and they’re grateful that they haven’t had to witness a revolving door of dates coming through my life and theirs. The most important thing for me is that my kids have the relationship skills to do better than I did. I am grateful that so far, they have made excellent choices in romantic partners. My oldest daughter just celebrated her fourth wedding anniversary. She and her husband have excellent communication skills, and they’re able to work out differences with ease. They are very much in love and are terrific parents to my gorgeous 13-month old granddaughter. I’m very proud of them.
My youngest daughter is in a fantastic relationship. Her boyfriend adores her and treats her with respect. He inspires her to be her best, and I’ve never seen her work so hard in school. When she contracted pneumonia at the end of December and had to leave school a week early, he packed up her stuff and came to visit. I sensed the sweet concern and care he has for her, and that makes me so happy.
My son isn’t in a relationship right now, but when he does find the right woman, she will be a lucky girl. He is sensitive, kind, and has a very generous heart and soul. He is willing to talk out differences, and he truly cares about his friends’ well being. I’m not worried about his future at all.
How do you teach children of divorce the relationship skills to help them make better choices?
Be a model for healthy relationships—not just romantically, but with everyone in your life. Keep the conversation open and ongoing so they feel safe to voice their questions and concerns about relationships. Please check out the tips I share in this video and I’d appreciate any comments. I’d love to hear what you think about how we can teach our children the relationship skills they need to have healthier relationships and make better choices in a romantic partner.
Note: This article first appeared on Last First Date.
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