Mediator Barbara Smith: Protect Your Children in Divorce
It is an interesting set of circumstances that divorcing parents find themselves in isn’t it? Divorce is one of the most emotionally taxing events that can occur in your life and yet it is at this very moment, when you are most personally challenged, that you are required to be the strongest parent possible.
Children are the innocent bystanders who are impacted by divorce. So often as a mediator, attorney and guardian ad litem, I hear parents profess their undying love for their children, yet they engage in behaviors that are indisputably destructive to those very children. As inadequate as you might think your spouse is as a parent, and as much as you think you children will be detrimentally effected by spending one or two more days per week with your spouse, (except in circumstances of neglect and abuse) it does not approach the level of harm caused them by conflict between you and their other parent.
Your relationship issues are not your children’s issues and it is selfish to involve them. Children have so many of their own concerns. They have to navigate their own lives as they relate to friends, school work, extracurricular activities, competition and exploring their personal talents. It remains your job as a parent to support and guide your children’s emerging personalities and young lives, even as you face your own hurts and failures. Remaining the adult in the relationship with your children is of supreme importance to them during this tumultuous process, when everything else in their world seems to be falling apart.
Regardless of how impaired you become during the process of divorce, you may not give yourself a “pass” when it comes to your children. Once you have a child, it is your responsibility to place that child’s needs before your own, at a minimum until they graduate high school. The blessing of bringing another human being into this world has been bestowed upon you as a parent but it comes with an everlasting responsibility. It is not a responsibility that you can shift to another, it is not a responsibility that you can turn on and off and it is for sure not a responsibility that you can run away from when it gets difficult. Why? Because young lives are depending on you to be strong and kind and rational and responsible.
I hear children say all the time that they just wish the fighting would stop. This does not get any easier to hear over the years. Fortunately, you and your spouse have control over granting that wish.
The intensity and difficulty of dealing with your own issues as well as those of your children rises with the level of conflict associated with the divorce.
Divorcing is an excruciatingly painful process. It is of critical importance to be ever mindful of the impact each of your choices and behaviors have on your children throughout the process.
There are no “re-do’s when it comes to your children!