By: Tess Worrell
“I want to tuck my children in bed every night. I don’t want to lose that with them,” shared one father during mediation. His obvious deep love for his children was rivaled only by mom’s look of deep disbelief and hurt. How could he expect to leave the family but still tuck in the kids every night?
The toughest part of divorce can be losing time with the children. Let’s face it–many couples stay together precisely because neither parent wants to lose this. So…is it possible to divorce and keep the same relationship with kids?
In short–no. Divorce changes everything. Including relationship to children.
But, that doesn’t necessarily mean losing. It can simply mean different.
Some parameters of different include:
Separate homes–Divorce creates two households. While these blend around co-parenting, they become distinct.
Each parent needs to go their own way. No longer married, each parent will launch their individual journeys and identities. Home needs to become a sanctuary for that endeavor. While it’s true that some couples manage to include each other in daily life, the vast majority desire boundaries.
Not walls. Boundaries. Those boundaries preclude one parent expecting “what has been” even as they live apart. Life unfolds, by and large, in the separate households. With occasional overlap for special occasions.
Separate patterns– Each home will develop new patterns, priorities, and “preferences.” These reflect the relationship of that parent with their children. When parents agree on the core values to hold in both homes, children adjust more easily as they move between. Yet, even with these, unique family live emerge. Parents become protective of their time and the flow of their home. Rather than interjecting into this, parents need to honor that boundary and focus instead on their own home.
Sacrifice–and Gain–The loss of routine interactions cuts deeply. The snuggles. The touch points. The little connectors. Each missed moment becomes something sacrificed because of the divorce. Yet, there are also gains.
- Recharge. Those nights apart from the children offer the opportunity to recharge emotional energy. Single parenting is hard. Regular breaks enable parents the time to build reservoirs to draw upon for being fully available when children are present.
- Explore. People generally give up key aspects of themselves to be married. Any choice necessarily excludes other options. Post-divorce, possibilities open for each parent to focus again on those aspects and reconnect with parts of themselves. Using those nights away to pursue this endeavor opens doors for both greater personal fulfillment and for introducing the children to new facets of Mom and Dad.
- Build. Time with the kids is focused on the kids. Those nights apart offer the chance to build adult relationships to support each parent as they transition to single-ness and begin a new phase of life. Time conversing with friends about the challenges of the new life offers relief and perspective. Fun with friends balances the drain of going it alone. Strong relationships nurture parents so they can nurture their children.
Designing time with the kiddos offers challenges–and opportunities. Grieve the loss. Also, look toward what remains and what can come.