Validating Marriage for Children of Divorce – Divorce affects almost every person in society. We have either experienced it ourselves or know someone who has. Statically 40 to 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Of those who divorce with children; mothers have the children 70% of the time, while only 30% of children live with their fathers. +
Many movies help visualize couples going through divorce and allow for the worst dynamics to play out with big drama. A movie released back in 1996 “First Wives Club” chronicled three women as they battled various phases of divorce all the while their children hang looming in the distance. A recent Bravo network TV show ‘Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce’ seems to glamorize divorce as a new lease on life not showing the real effects on children.
In many cases, during divorce, individuals find it very hard to focus on anything other than regaining personal stability. However, if you have children you must set aside the valuable time of affirming who they are through this process.
As a parent who shared custody of small children I quickly observed some remarkable things when it comes to their attentiveness. They are as much aware of every moment with memories like sponges. My children were under six when I was first declared a single dad and today, the oldest in college. I watched full circle what good choices in communication can have on children. I have also observed the devastating effects of poor communication when parents don’t lay down the past for the sake of their children’s future.
6 Tips for Validating Marriage for Children of Divorce
Here is my quick list of things I observed after divorce with respect to honoring the former marriage and the child’s other parent.
1. If you have nothing nice to say, keep it to yourself or get a friend.
Time and time again, it is not your job to belittle or talk poorly of the other parent, no matter what they have done. If you decide you need to talk to someone about it, do it out of reach of the children. I have seen many choose to pick up the phones, with the little ones in ear distance. They will stand by listening to the conversation in hopes of some insider information affecting their security. A good sign of that is if you are on the phone and they won’t leave you alone, it’s better to have the conversation when they are not at home or are sound asleep.
2. Children aren’t a place to vent your problems or emotions.
I have observed many parents confide in their children with respect to divorce, dating, and financial issues. STOP IT. They are not your friend or your partner, they are your children. You have a responsibility to support, encourage, and protect them from things. They don’t need to know that their father or mother are an “x*&^#”, or about your latest date, or that there is no money in the bank and you don’t know how you are going to make it. That is simply your responsibility. The damage of those responsibilities on children can affect their lives for years.
3. Choose to protect rather than being right.
You will have so many opportunities to be right in front of your children with respect to your former spouse and your child’s parent. Choose to protect them rather allowing past events dictate your response. You don’t need a child’s validation for the failure of the other parent or that of your former spouse. Kids are smart, and they will discover the truth themselves as they grow. It’s not your job to give adult realities to children.
Tim decided to confess and take responsibility for a marital affair. His confession came long after the divorce was over in the light of his rededication to Christ. While there is never a good time to reveal this type of sin, with pastoral instruction and prayer Tim approached his former spouse outside of the children. As you can imagine, it was very painful for his former spouse and most likely caught her off-guard.
A few days later Tim went to pick his children up for the weekend only for the subject to be broached this time in front of young children bringing them into adult realities. This has been played out over and over again with young children feeling the pain well past parents moving on. Many of you have been cheated on and the anger and pain are understandable. Your children are not the place to disclose this event, at least not now.
In this situation the relationship the children had with their father was damaged for many years. Adult things should NOT be disclosed to children. I do believe there is a time and a place for affairs to be disclosed to the children but as young adults who are able to understand the subject matter and look at it in the light of truth. Why? The truth in the situation helps propel individual growth and an acknowledgement of the effects of sin on families and marriage.
4. Relive the good memories.
The biggest opportunity to validate the marriage for the children is to recall the good memories during the marriage. Things you did together, events, funny family moments all make it easier for the child to feel the freedom to talk about their other parent without fear of being put down. While my girls were still young I would recall funny family times and pull out pictures and videos. I still recall their giggles in those early years as we would play “do you remember”. I would also bring other family moments like Christmas and birthdays pictures into conversations.
I would ask, “Do you girls remember that day?” One or both girls would chime in with their remembrance. I would then go a step further and affirm the people involved. “You mom worked extra hard that day to make that happen. She is such a good mamma isn’t she?” again, with nods and smiles.
My intent in those moments was to affirm to them that their mother was valuable and I perceived her to be a valuable part of their lives. This enabled them to be free about what they spoke of no matter who they were with.
5. Choose to teach your children to honor the other parent.
Something that is missing in most divorce situations is that regardless of if that person is no longer in your life; they are still in your child’s. So if it’s Christmas or their birthday, its your job to ask and encourage your children if they would like to get a card, make a picture, or do something for that other parent. There doesn’t need to be a large financial outlay but rather a thought. Any parent would simply love a hand drawn picture for their birthday. The failure to do this creates the opportunity for disrespectful behavior by the child toward the other parent.
6. Honor your commitments to your children spiritually, emotionally, and financially.
If you have to pay child support do it and with a cheerful heart. If you receive child support, do it with a thankful heart. The assumption is everything you do should be done as if you were still under the veil of marriage as with the same heart and kindness because the benefactors are the children.
In the end your children need to know that there was value in the marriage, that there is value in them. They came from that relationship and whether they remember or don’t there is an opportunity for growth. Insulting the other parent, venting your emotions or issues to them, or always trying to be right will only hurt their stability. While reliving good memories, teaching your children to honor the other parent, and honoring your commitments enhances their peace and encourages their growth. Ultimately, you have to choose to take the high ground.
Photo By Jonathan Grainger