6 Things Every Divorced Parent Should Put On Their “Stop-Doing” List

6 Things Every Divorced Parent Should Put On Their “Stop-Doing” List

There are many steps a coParent can take, in order to make the lives of their children easier. With the child in mind, as always. Here is a letter of six dedications to the children, written by Christina McGhee.

Dear Kids,

I’ve been thinking about how life has changed for you. There are so many things about our divorce that I wish I could fix or make less painful for you but I can’t.  I hate that.

You may not know this but I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what I should be or could be doing to make things better for you.  What I’ve realized is that sometimes what you stop doing is just as important as what you are doing.

Here are a few things I’m going to put on my “stop-doing” list.

1. I will stop avoiding the “hard “conversations. There’s some tough stuff regarding the divorce that you and I should probably be talking about. Truth is, I worry about making things worse for you. What if I say the wrong thing or don’t know how to answer your questions? So instead of saying something, I end up saying nothing.

I know that my silence may leave you wondering if it’s okay to talk about it. When you’ve been brave enough to speak up, there have been times when I’ve put you off or tried to casually change the subject.

The parent in me wants to protect you, to make the hurt and upset stop. The rational part of me knows I can’t and that keeping you in the dark isn’t helping either. You should feel like it’s okay to talk and ask questions.  Avoiding the subject is my problem, not yours.

Moving forward, I’m going to do my best to change that.  I will work on talking about the elephant in the room and speaking the hard truth.

Deep down I know you are wiser and stronger than I think. You are resilient beyond words.  I have every faith that you can get through the this and will use what happened in our family to grow into a better person.

2. I will stop ignoring myself.

A lot of times I feel stuck but don’t reach out for help. I’ve convinced myself if I just dig deep and keep my head down, I can get through this on my own.

The problem is it doesn’t always work.  There are times when I feel exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed and sometimes even resentful of our situation.  I know when this happens I can’t be the parent you need me to be. So, I try harder. This usually leads to me feeling really guilty and beating myself up for not being a better parent. I often pay more attention to putting out fires and checking off to-do lists than whether I’m eating, sleeping or getting a break once in a while.

However, I realize that if I don’t make it, you won’t either. While I may not always know where to turn, I will commit to finding some support. Whether it’s a trusted friend to help me sort things out, reading a book or finding a professional who can offer some insight, I will take that first step.  I will make time to see a movie just for me, hang out with friends or go for a run.

I promise to do a better job of taking care of myself. Not only will it allow me be a better parent, but maybe it will help you set the bar a little higher for yourself someday.

3. I will stop expecting my truth to be your reality.

I hope you know I want you to be able to love both of your parents. You should never have to pick sides, worry about being fair or feel caught in the middle of our problems.

I realize what I see and feel about your other parent isn’t your truth, it’s mine. And yet, sometimes feelings and memories from the past get the best of me.  I forget that we can be two good people who didn’t make a good couple.  That we will always be the only Mom and Dad you will ever have.  

So I am going to try harder to separate my feelings about our marriage from your needs.  To be more supportive of your relationship with your other parent and your home with them. I will do my best to see what you see and stay focused on how important both of your parents are to you.

4. I will stop keeping score.

Sharing time with you is really hard. I resent not always being the parent who gets to see the first time you ride a bike, score a goal, win the science fair or go to the prom.  I want to be there for all of it and it sucks that I can’t.

As a result, I can get really focused on having “my time” with you and keeping things fair. I forget that what feels fair to me, may not feel so great for you. I know that when I get caught up in keeping score, you do too.  Even though you don’t talk about it, I know there are times when you worry about keeping things the same between us.  That’s not a burden I want you to bear.

I will do my best to be flexible instead of dividing up the minutes and hours of your life. Even though sharing isn’t easy, I will find ways to share those special moments with your other parent.

I will work harder to create memories with you that will last a lifetime and remind myself that “when” something happens isn’t nearly as important as “what” happens.

5. I will stop sweating the small stuff.

When your other parent and I hit a bump in the road or don’t agree, I can dig my heels in with the best of them. I can get over-focused on being right and close minded. When I’m in “my way or the highway” mode, I have a difficult time seeing beyond what’s right in front of me and taking in the big picture.

Truth is, most things don’t matter as much as we think. When you take a step back, most of the problems we lose sleep over are actually quite small.

When things go pear-shaped, I’ll try to give myself some perspective by asking “What difference will this make one month from now? How about six months or a year?”

6. I will stop making negative comparisons.

There are times when I see glimpses of your other parent in you and not always in a good way. When your room is a mess, I know I’ve slipped up and said “You’re just like your dad.” When you talk smack about a rule you don’t like, I might have said, “You’re as stubborn as your mom,” or worse. I’m sorry for that.

When parents get divorced, it’s like you have blinders on.  It’s easy to get caught up in all the negative, petty stuff you don’t like about each other. But that’s not fair to you. I know you think of yourself as half mom and half dad, which is the way it should be.

Everyone (including parents) has things that are really great about them and some things that are not so great.

From now on, I’ll do my best to steer clear of zeroing in on the not so great and put more energy into reminding you of the wonderful ways you are like both of us.

I imagine there are other areas of my coParenting I could improve on. What I want you to know is I am committed to doing what I can to give you the childhood you deserve. You mean everything to me.  I always want the love I have for you to be greater than any need I have to be right, proud or in control.

Being your parent is one of the most important jobs I’ve ever had.  I hope when you look back on all of this, I’ll have done some things to make you proud.

Love you always,

Your Parent

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About Christina McGhee

Christina McGhee, MSW is an internationally recognized divorce coach, speaker and author of the highly acclaimed book, Parenting Apart: How separated and divorced parents can raise happy and secure kids.

Christina, dubbed the “divorce coach by the UK press, gained worldwide attention for her work with three British families in the Channel 4 documentary “How to Divorce Without Screwing Up Your Kids.” She has been featured on television, radio and in print around the US and abroad.

When she is not speaking or coaching, Christina does outreach around the documentary SPLIT, a compelling film about how divorce really feels for kids.

Married for over twenty-years, Christina and her husband live near Houston, Texas. As a stepmom and a mom of four, she has extensive on-the-job training as a chauffeur, negotiator, short-order cook, scheduler extraordinaire and finder of all things lost.

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