Healthy Divorce in the Spotlight
The notion of having a healthy divorce can surprise some people and upset others. Unfortunately we are much more familiar with unhealthy divorced families in our society. They’re the ones the media usually portray with frightening descriptions of how badly the children are doing, and how awful the conflict is between the parents. We hear stories of monumental custody battles, violence, parental abduction and child abandonment. It’s what I call an “ain’t it awful” scenario. Now I’m not naive enough to believe that these things don’t happen in divorce, because they do. And I certainly am not condoning any behavior that is even close to what I’ve described. Let me repeat that: I don’t condone any of the dirty divorce games that get played out every day between divorcing couples.
But think about this for a minute – when have you read a story in your local newspaper or heard a report on the television or radio in which divorced families are portrayed as doing well? Sadly, good news doesn’t sell all that well. But those successful healthy divorced families are out there, just waiting to be showcased. I know this because I’ve met many of them. I’m a big believer in rewarding the behavior you want to see. So… that means if we want to hear more stories about healthy divorce we have to tell the stories. We must reward the moms and dads in the world who are courageously figuring out how to have a healthy divorce.
Signs of a Healthy Divorced Family
- Both parents are responsibly involved in parenting their children.
- Children know that they can count on their parents to be there for them in times of crisis and celebration.
- Mistakes are seen as opportunities to learn. No one is punished for making a mistake or taking a risk.
- Messages between families are straightforward. Adults talk to adults on issues regarding the children. Children are never asked to carry messages between parents.
- Adults keep their word.
- Adults model good self-care for their children.
- Children are not exposed to adult conflict.
- Parents respect and value each other’s roles in the lives of their children.
- When parents disagree about something they deal with it directly. There is no badmouthing of the other parent.
- Children do not have to censor what they say to one parent about the other parent. Children are welcome to talk about their parents in each parent’s home.
- All family members learn to respond to stress with flexibility and a problem-solving attitude. They ask for help and seek others’ opinions when needed.
- Their children’s needs are at the top of both parents’ minds.
- Adults are flexible and willing to change the schedule when it is important to their child or it will assist the other parent.
- Family members are able to play and have fun with each other.
- Adult-child interactions are marked by appropriate touch.
- Adults are not threatened when a child wants to spend more time with the other parent.
Help us Celebrate Healthy Divorced Families
Would you like to be recognized for your efforts to be a healthy divorced parent? Or perhaps you know an outstanding divorced parent that you’d like us to feature on this page? Let’s get the momentum going and focus on the many things divorced parents are doing right instead of always talking about what is going wrong. Fill out this form and tell us about your family. And then, get ready to celebrate! Help me fill this page with success stories.
A Word About Your Privacy
In case you’re hesitant to provide personal information about your family, be reassured that we will contact every family who is nominated and make sure that we have your complete permission before we write anything about you. And then we will only include information that you choose to share.
Pay it Forward
I’ve always found that the best way to succeed is to follow in the footsteps of other successful people. So now, I’m challenging all of you successful, experienced divorced parents to “pay it forward.” Reach out your hand to help and inspire those new divorced parents who are just setting out on the path. Remember how overwhelming and lonely it felt? Your stories can help! Parenting in and of itself is challenging enough – and parenting after divorce can be even tougher. We don’t have nearly enough mentors, role models and heroes to follow. You can help me change that.
Some basic guidelines:
- Introduce us to your family. Provide information about everyone in your family including first names, children’s ages, the city you live in.
- If you are nominating a family other than your own, please make sure that you have their permission before you send even one detail about them. We don’t want to invade anyone’s privacy.
- Tell us what’s working well for your family. Be as specific as you can. Describe your journey to becoming the healthy divorced family that you are today.
- If you are nominating a family other than your own, please be sure to include an e-mail address so we can get in touch with them.
- This is not a place to tell war stories, to whine or vent about how bad the other parent is. We are looking for uplifting, inspiring, “here’s how you do it” stories of success.
- Use the list of signs of healthy divorced family to guide you.
Bill of Rights for Children of Divorce
- I have the right to love and be loved by both of my parents, without guilt, pressure, disapproval or rejection.
- I have the right to be protected from my parents’ anger.
- I have the right to be kept out of the middle of my parents’ conflict, including the right not to pick sides, carry messages, or hear complaints about the other parent.
- I have the right to have a regular daily and weekly routine, one that is not filled with unpredictable disruptions, chaos, or unpleasant surprises.
- I have the right to not have to choose between my parents. It is my right to not be expected to choose with whom I will live. Having to make this kind of choice will always hurt someone, and therefore, me. I have this right even when I am a teenager. I CAN NEVER CHOOSE BETWEEN MY PARENTS.
- I have the right not to be responsible for the emotional needs of my parents.
- I have the right to know well in advance about any major changes that will affect my life.
- I have the right to reasonable financial support from my parents.
- I have the right to appropriately express my feelings to my parents and expect that they will listen to me.
- I have the right to not be expected to make adult decisions. I have the right to remain a child and not replace a parent in my duties, or to act as an adult companion, personal friend or comforter to my parents.
- I have the right to like and love as many people (such as stepparents and relatives) as I want to without guilt and without being made to feel disloyal.
- I have the right to a life as close as possible to what I would have had if my parents had stayed married to each other.
Think about your own children and what their bill of rights might include. You might want to take time to write it out so that it will be fresh in your mind as you continue on your journey of parenting after divorce.