This story explains how your divorce is not the only divorce in your child’s life and techniques to create calmness.

In one of my positive coParenting classes, a mom and dad shared that, although their divorce transition had been smooth and conflict free, their typically lighted-hearted son Dillon was suddenly showing signs of extreme anxiety. “We’ve done everything we can to convince him that the divorce is gonna be ok… but, he just doesn’t believe it… He even said it,” mom said in exasperation.  What these parents don’t realize is that while “OK” may be true for their divorce, that divorce isn’t the only divorce in their child’s life.

Between forty to fifty percent of first time marriages will end in divorce.  A significant number of these dissolving marriages will have minor children.  What this means is that – by the first day of school each year – your child will have at least one BFF whose parents have divorced and several other friends whose parents never married, and may not have ever lived together as an intact family.

When parents can paint for their child a positive image of what life will be like after the divorce, the child’s imagination become a bridge to the “new normal,” making the trip less stressful and the destination more adaptable. But, as with many other areas of their life, parents must often do battle with other forces competing for their child’s imagination. This is especially true where the “new normal” is too new and far from normal.

The post-divorce promise mom and dad are asking Dillon to believe in something harder to grasp than the present divorce reality confronting his friend.  What Dillon believes will happen tomorrow is based not only on what he hears his divorcing parents say, but also on what he sees his friend’s divorcing parents do.

Mom told Dillon …”You can go see dad whenever you want.” But next door, Dillon’s best friend wasn’t allowed to visit her dad after her parent’s had argued on the phone. Dad told Dillon, “The divorce is not your fault.” But next door, Brice’s mom said, “Your dad left because you had problems at school.” Mom told Dillon, “Nothing happened to cause the divorce and sometimes parents just grow apart.” Yet next door, Kiley’s dad had an affair.

As hard as you and your coParent work to convince your child that everything is going to be okay after the divorce, they have at least one friend whose parents are already divorced – and things are not ok.

At this time – more than ever – it’s important that the calm of YOUR divorce drown out the noise of others within earshot of your child. Here’s how:

–  Encourage and support the time your child spends with their other parent – children love to see your excitement for them

–  Avoid criticizing the coParent in front of your child… and, don’t allow others to do it either

–  While we want our children to be compassionate towards others, monitor their time with friends who are exposed to divorce conflict

Your divorce may not be the only divorce in your child’s life, but your calm is what will get them through.

*The names of the children have been changed to protect their identity

About author Denise Banks-Wilson:

Denise is an experienced Divorce and Family Mediator – having conducted over 225 mediations since 2012.  She’s facilitated the Positive CoParenting class since the establishment of the 2006 Illinois’ law mandating parenting education for divorcing and separating parents.  Through her divorce parenting class, Denise has worked with over 4000 parents since 2006. Denise has been endorsed by the 4th, 7th, and 8th Judicial Circuit of Illinois, making her an Approved Family Mediator for 24 Illinois Counties. She received her B.S. and M.S. degrees from Illinois State University and certificate in divorce/family mediation from Northwestern University.  She is a member of the Association for Conflict Resolution, the Academy of Professional Family Mediators and currently serves as Treasurer for the Mediation Council of Illinois. The value of Denise’s work is reflected in a comment made by a 2012 PCP Class Participant…”I wish my parents had taken this class when I was a kid…then maybe I wouldn’t have spent the past 20 years in therapy.”