It’s easy to believe reading an article on “Getting Active” you’ll find new tips about fitness, diets, summer trimmings and all manner of hard-to-keep promises. If you too are over them then continue reading because I’m not talking about getting active in a fitness freak sense, I’m talking about avoiding one of the biggest traps divorced parents face when raising their children.

How often do we wish that our children could escape all the consequences of our divorce? We watch them coming and going, forgetting shoes, losing homework, calling us the other parent’s name and we wonder how to protect them from it all. Feeling quite hopeless, we resort to the next best thing … the ostrich. We bury our heads in the sand and hope that in a little while this will all go away and our children will be fine.

Chances are our children will find their own way to cope with all the complexities your divorce has imposed upon their life, however “Getting Active” helps them adjust (not just cope) ensuring them far better developmental years while with you.

3 Steps to Getting Active with your Divorced Family:

I. Good Communication

If you’re quiet, learn to talk. If you’re talkative, learn to listen. Good communication starts with an environment where they’re free. This means that they’re comfortable talking with you about the Ex, the roller-coaster of emotions, moments of personal doubts and boundless youthful idealism.

It takes time to build predictable confidence with your children. They want to know that you’re reliable and you won’t judge them if they stuff up, goof off or even let you down. They’ll test it because they want to know that you’re there – regardless. Unconditional has already been broken; you’re a divorced parent. The child’s way of testing how conditional your relationship with them is will be through trial.

Keep the communication positive even when you disagree. Let your No be No. Let your Yes be Yes and always remember the wise saying of “Seek to understand before being understood.”

II. Long Term Perspective

It is very easy to become overly frustrated by the influence of your divorce, or the ongoing interference from your Ex into the children’s lives. One of the most common questions asked of me is, “How do you know what’s worth fighting over and what’s not?” My answer; It’s all about perspective.

Divorced parents fight over money and routines more than anything else. “Why is that important?”, you ask. Simply this means that the majority of these parents have lost perspective.

It’s common for parents to fight for one or two more nights in a fortnight. They’ll drag through two to three years of court battles, legal fees and bitterness to have their children an extra night or two. While they may win the battle, the war has been lost. Their children are raised in a dysfunctional family where mother and father cannot speak kindly nor politely to each other. They’re usually unable to step foot inside the front door and the relationship breakdown is intensified for years.

The long term perspective would keep in mind that the children, when grown as adults, will not really remember the routine but rather the manner in which that routine was carried out. I would suggest that to accept a few less nights to have the harmony between mother and father is a far better perspective.

III. How not What

The best way to help our children adjust to all the complications post divorce is to teach them a very important life skill – How to think, not What to think. For centuries we have been taught what to think through what is normal, judged wrong, acceptable and pleasing. To question this thinking was also unacceptable. Nowadays questioning is acceptable, even encouraged.

The downside of questioning is people demand to understand why or how they do what they’ve otherwise just done. The upside, nonsensical and outdated thinking can rapidly change.

When you parent post divorce, one of the greatest gifts you can give children is to learn how to evaluate and make good choices for themselves. If they learn how to handle difficult circumstances, grumpy people, and inconveniences well, they’ll thrive as adults.

Instead of trying to manage your Ex, control other’s influences and overly protect their surroundings, start teaching them how to truly see what is going on around them. Once they’re practiced at seeing, you can teach them how to handle it. You’ll give them a gift for life.

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Jill Darcey (author, parent, founder, and speaker) is a mother of three with thousands of hours of experience as a counsellor and coach, and more than a decade of real-time experience with "complex family" parenting --- parenting through separation, divorce or some other family breakdown. Jill is someone who has both vision and wisdom and has learned a lot of what does and doesn't work — and some of it the hard way!

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