"Throughout this book, I felt Bruce had a secret window into my own life and private thoughts. Many private feelings I am currently dealing with were addressed and revealed in a manner that made me feel it is not only normal, but I am truly not alone in this. I was surprised that I cried while reading it and the comfort that the words brought me. I read tons of self-help books, among other types of books, and this book actually gives me hope and things to look forward to. My tears were from the fact that I am facing the words I read. I have been getting negative feedback from outside sources and these words reassured me not to listen, keep them out of your life and do what is right. The section on the other home/parent opened my eyes and freed me. I did not go into reading this book thinking it would help me on such a deep emotional level." ~Dorothy Justice, Vice Chair-Community Action Partnership

September 26, 2012

12 Tips To Help Build A Good Life After Divorce With Children

One of the most difficult times you will ever endure in your life will be during this period. Going through my divorce with children tested every part of my being. While my divorce wasn't particularly nasty, it wasn't a walk in the park either.  Unknown to me at the time was the real test hadn’t come yet. The larger ordeal would come after the divorce.    

My priorities in my divorce were that personal time with my kids would not be jeopardized and that their needs would be met emotionally, financially, and physically. 
I received every weekend with my kids and a rotation of weekly individual date nights with my daughters. Soon, I added coaching and any other time I could find to be an integral part of their lives. 

After a one-year separation, it took roughly an additional two years after divorcing to work through emotional healing, coping with challenges from their mom, and helping my children acclimate to

change. The following list reflects a compilation of what I learned and accomplished with my children over the first three years. Achieving this list wasn’t easy. It won’t be the end either- working through nonsense and staying your course is the important part, but the outcome is worth it.

One unforeseen benefit is the growth in your relationships with your children. It’s hard to see now, but the depth and awareness you find with your children will be profound. Years later when things got bad in their mothers household, I went to court and brought my children home fulltime. By this time, I shared mutual understanding, trust, love, and respect with my children. It was the points below, which got us there.

Here are the 12 points to success as you transition with your children.

1. Preparing for Change- life may look disheartening on the surface, but a little deeper, closer look and there’s more than meets the eye. Nothing quite prepares us for this period, but it’s best to do with integrity and dignity. It doesn’t matter how the ex responds to change. It’s now your life moving forward while you go solo.

2. New household status- means you’re the boss of your own domain now. If you haven’t realized this already, this is now the time to take notice. One of the benefits to new single status is doing things your way and for your kids- release the inner voice held over from your ex that says otherwise. Buying new furniture or moving furniture the way you like or buying food for your diet and your cooking preferences is the new you. Change it up!

3. Adjusting to new life- there may be many reasons for your breakup but that doesn’t matter anymore. The pains are still there which may drag up fears about your future, but you’re in a new place now with your new life and new heart- creating new habits, practices, and disciplines is your new norm. A good healthy distraction is your kids. Your children are your primary focus now along with you and career. They are depending on you now more than ever.

4. Integrating into your kid’s lives- regardless of your relationship prior to divorce, you have new opportunity to build deeper bonds merely from the additional individual closeness and time together- your consistency here will develop a connection naturally over time.  This is irreversible. Eventually you will see how your relationships with your children deepen and you grow into a changed person with your new perspective.

5. Working past the ex, negativity, and games- this was your married life and maybe why you are now separated or divorced. No reason to amplify the negativity now. You went through the hassles of the divorce negotiations and that is now past, so don’t get entangled or prolong the anxiety. Don’t react, but rather respond. No matter what you hear through small lips, defuse immature tactics with your warm persona, hugs, kisses, and smile with your children. It’ll be hard to hear, among other things, but do this as a rule and show your loved one through example- no muss no fuss.

6. Moving forward- keep your eyes on the horizon toward your new goals and destination. If you put too much emphasis on the other camp or keep looking back, you’ll only distract yourself from what’s really important in front of you. Stay focused on your kids in your household. It doesn’t matter what the other party is doing or saying- play out your new life designed to benefit your children and you. Play by the rules and play nice with the ex- honor the decree and enforce when necessary. When it comes to holidays or that special parenting day comes around annually, be flexible.

7. Building structure- in the process of divorce things got a little confusing for everyone. Add stability back into your kid’s lives by developing and building a framework of consistency and predictability into your home life. Structure is vital to your child’s long-term emotional health. Allocate times for important milestones in your day- such as playtime, meals, homework, bath, bed, etc.

8. Developing rituals with your children- up for consideration is any set of a number of family rituals I developed here. As an example, Date nights, Sports, and Extracurricular or intellectual activities, are fantastic ways to build rapport with your children. You may consider coaching as I did.

9. Being a reliable resource – your kids will need you. Make your children a priority. Be there when they reach out. Share your intel: cell#, email, skype id, facetime id etc.. Communicate frequently and often with your children on your plans, travel, work, and schedule changes as though nothing has changed accept your living arrangements. Show through example, you will be there when needed. It may help to inform your work in advance you have a new household status and last minute notices may occur for daycare or school, etc as you adjust.

10. Teach your children well -- divorce isn’t the end of the world, obviously. It may bring fears and pains, though don’t let it project onto your kids. You are allowed to grieve as you accept the reality of your situation.  However, your kids have so much more to learn from how you accept change and define your life as you move forward to a brighter, deeper, future together. 

11. Staying positive – it will be difficult with hurt emotions while you grieve from loss or due to new transitions. Be selective when choosing your battles- look inward for insightful personal change and ownership. You will know when you are whole and complete again. It might not happen today or tomorrow, but you’ll feel it eventually if you employ many of the tricks and tips within. 

12. Sticking with what works – trust your parenting. Identify with your personal and parental gifts. If you don’t know what those are, here are a few to consider- love, patience, hugs, smiles, positive notes, holding hands, cooking, learning together, growing together, taking ownership, leading by example, not playing the victim, humor, and thoughtful acts of kindness.

The other camp may not appreciate the bright spots you’ve developed with your children, but stay the course outlined above, disregard the nonsense, play nice, and everything will be ok. 

My book, "Parenting After Divorce: Rebuilding Your Life and Reaffirming the Relationships that Matter", is based on these concepts and I developed an awareness program that supports the same strategies and philosophies to support and serve those in similar circumstances. You can learn more about this program here and provide input or feedback based on your very unique circumstances. Im available to visit your city with these program materials and a speaking engagement here

Bruce Buccio resides in Colorado, USA, is a Rebuilding Coach and Expert and soon to be published Author. Today, he writes primarily inspired by experiences raising his children, but also writes about inspiration, growth, and love.

-photo credit: lighttruth/ Flickr

© 2012- Bruce Buccio