People are often intrigued when I tell them how much I enjoyed growing up with divorced parents. They raise their eyebrows in shock when I talk about my parents’ cooperation and lasting friendship. They lean in to listen when I list all the reasons why I grew up thinking divorce was a good thing.
I’m not going to say that my parents’ divorce didn’t come with its share of difficulties. My mom and dad certainly weren’t perfect and the separation process wasn’t pain-free for anyone. However, there were some key elements that went a long way in smoothing the transition and helping me to thrive under the circumstances. Here are some things my parents did well:
1. They worked as a team. When my parents lived together, they argued. When they separated, the fighting stopped. The nature of their relationship changed from that of an unhappily married couple to that of a committed parenting team. They communicated respectfully and worked to present a united front to me and my sister.
2. They accepted and encouraged relationships on the “other side.” Children of divorce often feel the need to separate themselves from the side of the family that isn’t present. Fortunately, that’s a reality I never knew. My parents encouraged the relationships I had with each of them and their significant others. My mom sat patiently and listened as I told funny stories about my dad’s girlfriend, and she never let me know how uncomfortable she felt. As a result, I grew up believing that divorce was a positive event that caused my family to grow.
3. They let me choose. Within reason, my parents allowed me to have a say in our visitation and holiday schedule. If I wanted to, I could spend extra time with a parent, and they considered my preferences when it came to the holidays. This allowed me to keep some of my favorite traditions as well as maintain a sense of comfort and control as our family evolved.
I like to say that divorce is not about dissolution; it’s about evolution. Of course, the ultimate outcome is up to the participants and the choices they make along the way. As a parent, you can work to ease the transition for your children. It’s not always easy, but it’s possible.