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Cultivating Healthy Relationships in Divorced Families

*This is a guest post, written by Bridgette McLaughlin. See her full bio at the end of this article.*

I am the child of a statistic; that half of all marriages end in divorce. Our mother, who was overworked, tired, and depressed was left to take care of five children. This event affected each child differently and left us all a little separated. My parents divorced when I was roughly 8 years old. That time in my life is hazy and I don’t have a lot of memories from then. The memories I do have aren’t the ones you want your 8-year-old to live through.  
After my parents' divorce, it was court ordered my father came and saw me and my youngest brother every other Saturday. We would sit on the front porch of my mother’s home for an hour. After a while my brother and I stopped talking, and after that he stopped showing up. The last time I saw my father, he was yelling drunken slurs at my mother and sped away in his car. I was 12. 
It doesn’t take a professional to say this isn’t an ideal environment for children to grow up in. But the reality of the situation is that divorce does happen, and life gets hard. We also never truly understand how important and pivotal our childhood is until we reflect upon it. Not until attachment theory was put in front of me did I ever sit myself down and actually understand how I form relationships. I didn’t understand the need to create healthy relationships within the family household until all of us had moved on and started our own lives.  

It’s important to create a healthy environment your children, especially after a divorce. After scouring around the internet for professional advice, and using my own past experiences, I found a few simples steps that parents can take to cultivate an environment that helps their children grow and thrive. These are only some of the main points that are talked about. They are the ones that I feel hold a lot of weight in creating a positive environment for your child. 

Commit to your children through your actions, not just your words.
It is important for your child to understand that you are there for them. But your children are paying attention to your every move, and they know when you aren’t around. It’s understandable and okay that life gets busy after a divorce but be sure to make time to spend with your children. Take them to the store, go to their sporting event. It’s more important that your spending time with them no matter what the activity is. 

Choose your parent-to-parent communication style.
I have heard my friends talk about the countless times in which their parents try to communicate with the child as the middle man; this is not the way to communicate to your ex-spouse. It is going to be hard but figuring out how a healthy way to communicate about your child/children will help in the long run.

Be both physically and emotionally present.
When spending time and being present in your kid’s life, don’t be absent minded. As a child, it is easy to see when a parent is bored or is still concentrating on a job. Make sure you’re treating your child the same way you would want to be treated by a special person in your life. 

Practice healthy communication.
It can get difficult to communicate feelings after a divorce for the parent and the child. Even by opening the floor to talking about feelings makes a world of difference. It is good for a child to know that feelings aren’t something that need to stay behind closed doors.
Learn more about child development and behavior.

Events throughout someone’s childhood can have life long effects on them. The sooner you educate yourself and your ex-spouse about childhood development, you can begin to cultivate a healthy and growing environment for your children. 

I want to remind you that I am by no means an expert in this. I am telling you this from the perspective of a young girl who group up in a household of divorce. It wasn’t until I reached my 20’s that I remotely understood what my mother worked through. And I would love to never see child have to deal with that I did. I am beyond appreciative of my mother, and I strive to be as strong and independent as she is. I know that divorce seems hard, but things do get better. It takes more than one single person alone to make it through a divorce; so, gather your children and keep them close, because they are going to need you just as much as you need them.

Chirban, J. (Oct 2016). “Trust for Children of Divorce.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/age-un-innocence/201610/trust-children-divorce.
Greenbaum, J. “Welcome to The Healthy Divorce Blog, Your Source for Everything Related to Having a Healthy Divorce.” 8 Ways to Build a Positive Co-Parenting Relationship After Divorcewww.mainlinedivorcemediator.com/healthy-divorce-blog/8-ways-to-build-a-positive-co-parenting-relationship-after-divorce.

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