5 Ways to Put Your Kids First After Your Divorce

Once the divorce dust settles, it's time to establish a new norm for your family.  Mighty Mommy shares tips on how to co-parenting after divorce to put your kids first.

Cheryl Butler
7-minute read
Episode #424


Dr. Laura Markham writes in her article Why Kids Need Routines, “Humans are afraid of many things, but "the unknown" edges out everything except death and public speaking for most people.”  “Children, like the rest of us, handle change best if it is expected and occurs in the context of a familiar routine. A predictable routine allows children to feel safe, and to develop a sense of mastery in handling their lives. As this sense of mastery is strengthened, they can tackle larger changes: walking to school by themselves, paying for a purchase at the store, going to sleepaway camp."

"Unpredictable changes – Mom called away on an unexpected business trip, a best friend moving, or more drastic, parents divorcing or a grandparent dying – erode this sense of safety and mastery and leave the child feeling anxious and less able to cope with the vicissitudes of life. Of course, many changes can't be avoided. But that's why we offer children a predictable routine as a foundation in their lives--so they can rise to the occasion to handle big changes when they need to.” 

I really believe from my own experience that no matter how difficult your present situation might be—stick to your routines (or create some new rituals that will keep your kids centered), and you’ll definitely be putting the kids first each and every day.  See Also How Routines Can Simplify Your Life

4. Focus on the Present

The past offers the opportunity to revel and reminisce on both wonderful and painful memories, and for a family who has just navigated through a divorce, this can be a very difficult time for everyone.  It’s normal for all of us to want to cling to those loving times we shared as a family before things went bad. But there is still a lot of raw, emotional pain to be dealt with for all involved.  When a family is learning to create a new way of life with parents now living in two different households, it can be more beneficial to look forward, rather than to the past.

It can be more beneficial to look forward, rather than to the past.

In an on-line article written by Psychologist Kristin Davin, 7 Ways to Maintain a Positive Relationship with Your Ex, she writes “Refrain from bringing up the past in the presentSure, we are often tempted to go back around and bring up the past and note how this or that situation could have been different, but how is that allowing you to grow and move on? How is that helping you become centered in your new life? Discussing the past is helpful if you are using it to grow and change and not repeat your mistakes, and if helps you become a better version of yourself. Bringing up the past keeps you stuck and sends you down the rabbit hole, which creates more distance between the present and your new future."  "Remember, your role as a parent places a pivotal role in what your children take away from the divorce. Learning to work towards improving your relationship with your ex has positive, long-term benefits that help the entire family!”

With 8 kids we are quite busy focusing on all that we have happening in just one single day nevermind what went on yesterday.  To help my family from dwelling on things that used to be or might be, I remind them of how important today is with this terrific quote I found by an anonymous author--“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, which is why we call it the present.”

5. Don’t Worry, Be Happy

One huge source of comfort to kids is when they see their parents happy. During divorce, joyful moments can seem few and far between, but if you get yourself into the habit of practicing gratitude and concentrating on even the smallest things that are going well—you make the world’s best pancakes, your teenager has a part-time job and can help pay for her cell phone, your next door neighbor regularly shares flowers from her beautiful garden with you—your problems won’t be in the forefront, the good things in your life will be instead.

Tammy Daughtry, CEO of Co-Parenting International, has advice to ease the divorce process on your children. Based on her book, Co-Parenting Works! Helping Your Children Thrive After a Divorce, she writes, "Laugh and smile - your mood has a direct impact of that of your children.." In other words, stress breeds stress. "Find a way to be happy and enjoy your life - your children need to have fun and enjoyable memories with you," she adds.

With that in mind, remember that you always have the choice on whether to choose happiness or to act with sadness.  The kids don’t ask to be put in the middle of a divorce, so take as many opportunities as you can to giggle, smile, hug them and tell them you love them.  By doing this you are not only putting them first, you are setting a wonderful example of how to live with grace under pressure.  See Also:  10 Essential Parenting Strategies for When Life's Got You Down

How do you make sure your kids are your major focus during a divorce or other difficult times?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. or email me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com. Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.

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About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!