During a divorce, everybody thinks they can tell you what you should do. Your friends and family will all have contradictory opinions and won’t hold back. So who do you listen to? How do you navigate the mess of parenting during divorce?
Every family is different and, to some degree, you just have to make it up as you go along. These six TED talks will give you food for thought as well as some real, actionable advice to help you with parenting during and after divorce.
The Impact of Divorce on Children
A professor at UC Santa Barbara, Tamara D. Afifi talks about the effects of divorce on children.This is a longer video at 19 minutes but well worth watching. Children don’t necessarily talk about their emotions during divorce so Afifi does it for them. Through her research, Afifi is able to tell us how divorce affects children in their own words. The research includes conversations with children but also asseses how their body responds to the stress of divorce.
It turns out, children get stressed by conflict between their parents. This isn’t ground breaking but parents often forget about it. When children feel torn between their parents, they form an attachment to one parent, avoid the issue, or become aggressive.
Afifi’s advice is to create rules with your ex about how you’re going to co-parent. If that doesn’t work, if your ex keeps badmouthing you or being aggressive, just ignore it. Do not engage with her. According to Afifi, many teenagers and adults have said they noticed and appreciated when one parent took the high road and did not perpetuate the conflict.
Key take away: There is one variable that affects children’s ability to cope with a divorce more than any other: conflict between the parents.
We’re All Hiding Something. Let’s Find the Courage to Open Up
During this short, thought provoking video, Ash Beckham asks viewers to stop hiding. She argues that each of us lives in a closet of some sort. Beckham struggled with telling her friends and family that she’s gay but argues that withholding news of a divorce or having to break the news of a terminal illness is a closet of its own. She says that to get out of your closet, you have to be authentic, be direct, and be unapologetic. This is a short video but the nine minutes pack a punch. If you’re reluctant to come clean about your divorce or wondering what will happen when you do, check out this TED talk.
Key take away: Being honest with your kids and extended family about the decision to divorce won’t be easy, but must be done.
How to Raise Successful Kids Without Over Parenting
This talk doesn’t offers some fantastic parenting advice, divorced or not. Julie Lythcott-Haims, a researcher and author, argues that being overly involved in a child’s life can be as detrimental as being under involved. Parent involvement in the “checklisted childhood” means pushing kids to get the right grades so they can go to the right college and get the right job. They have to be musical prodigies and sports starts while maintaining straight As. It’s unrealistic.
This is especially important to remember for parenting during divorce. Naturally, parents want the best for their kids and during a divorce, they begin to worry if the kids are okay. They become hyper-concerned with grades and extra-curricular activities, using them as indicators of how the child is coping with the divorce. But they aren’t what we need to be looking at. By asking only about grades and accolades, we tell our children that our love depends on their success.
Key take away: By overprotecting kids, parents keep them from developing self-efficiency. We should support our kids and care for their well being but not use scores and grades as benchmarks of success.
Facing Infidelity for Better Parenting During Divorce
This provocative talk by Psychotherapist Esther Perel will give you a lot to think about. A must-watch for anyone whose divorce was instigated by infidelity, this talk considers the good and the bad of affairs. Infidelity doesn’t relate directly to parenting during divorce but it still affects it. If your marriage ended due to an affair (yours or your ex’s) there’s a lot of extra anger and shame rolling around. This video will help you examine the affair and understand it.
According to Perel, cheating is not about the partner, but about the individual. Affairs are an expression of longing and loss, a sense of wanderlust, and an attempt to regain a lost part of ourselves. By understanding the root of the infidelity, you will be able to let go of it and focus on better parenting during divorce.
Key take away: Understanding that cheating isn’t about the other spouse may improve your co-parenting communication during and after the divorce.
What Adults Can Learn From Kids
This light, eight-minute video reminds you of the most important part of parenting during divorce: listen to your kids. Only 12 years old, Adora Svitak argues, “Kids still dream about perfection. And that’s a good thing, because in order to make anything a reality, you have to dream about it first.” She also says, “In many ways, [a kid’s] audacity to imagine helps push the boundaries of possibility.”
Svitak says kids “love challenges, but when expectations are low, trust me, we will sink to them.” Don’t underestimate your children. They are strong and resilient.
And don’t forget to listen to your kids. The biggest part of parenting during divorce is communicating with your children. You need to ask them how they’re doing, and be a good dad, but you also need to listen to them. Let yourself learn from their passion, enthusiasm, and boundless optimism.
Key take away: “To show that you truly care, you listen. You need to listen and learn from kids, and trust [them] and expect more from [them]. You must lend an ear today, because [they] are the leaders of tomorrow.” – Adora Svitak
Keep Yourself Healthy Enough for Parenting During Divorce
Psychologist Guy Winch shares research-based advice on giving yourself emotional first aid. Poor emotional health can tank your physical health. Divorce is a horrific time and can lead to anger, stress, and loneliness. Winch argues, “Loneliness creates a deep psychological wound, one that distorts our perceptions and scrambles our thinking.” The problem is that we don’t take it seriously. We wouldn’t say to a friend, “It’s just a broken leg, walk it off” but we tell ourselves, “It’s just depression/loneliness. Shake it off.”
The aftermath of divorce can be bad for physical health. Winch says, “Loneliness won’t just make you miserable, it will kill you. I’m not kidding. Chronic loneliness increases your likelihood of an early death by 14 percent. Loneliness causes high blood pressure, high cholesterol. It even suppresses the functioning of your immune system.”
The gut-wrenching fallout from divorce can have a huge effect on you. To be a good parent during divorce, you need to practice emotional first aid. You need to take care of yourself before you can care for the kids. Think of the oxygen mask on a plane: apply your own mask before helping those around you.
Key take away: Take care of yourself so that you can be better at parenting during divorce. Winch tells us to place as much emphasis on “emotional hygiene” as we do on personal hygiene.
Are you interested in more divorce advice for dads? Leave your topic requests in the comments below.
Co-parenting is a hot topic.
Share this article on your social media.