Brian isn’t doing too well with his parents’ divorce. Lately he’s showing more aggressive behavior. His divorced parents, Sam and Sue, are concerned about his behavior and seek help. The therapist tells them that their unresolved conflict is causing Brian problems. They have difficulty talking about their son without blaming and fighting each other. They can’t parent because they are too busy demolishing one another’s character.
Divorce didn’t solve their conflicts and Brian is still caught in the crossfire of two people who haven’t learned be civil to one another despite their differences. Brian’s behavior is a response to their constant fighting.
Most of you are concerned about the effects of divorce, separation and remarriage on the adjustment of your children. You want to do whatever possible to help them adjust. You already feel guilty about putting children through the ordeal of divorce.
A good place to start is to reduce the conflict between you and your ex-spouse. I know you are thinking, “ If I could do this, I wouldn’t be divorced!” Possibly, but you still have to work on it for the sake of your kids.
So how do you work on conflict reduction with a difficult parent partner?
1) Both agree that your unresolved feelings for each other must get resolved. If this means you need to see someone in therapy, do it. Your child’s adjustment is at stake.
The surprise for many couples is that divorce didn’t make all those negative feelings go away. The feelings stayed. You just left. Conflict between you and your ex must be resolved because it affects your ability to parent. It is very difficult to make rational decisions concerning your child when you feel negatively towards your ex-spouse. It is no secret that parents unconsciously fight with each other through their kids despite knowing they shouldn’t do this.
My suggestion: Work in therapy with a marital therapist who will help you exercise grace and forgiveness towards your ex. It’s time to bury the multiple hatchets. It doesn’t matter how wrong you’ve been treated. God tells us to forgive and let go. He forgives you when you don’t deserve it. Now do the same with your ex.
2) Remind yourself that no matter how you feel about your ex, he/she is your child’s parent. That fact doesn’t change. Help your child see you can have positive exchanges around parenting issues. It will help build positive feelings in the child as well.
3) Always keep in mind that you are doing this to please God and help your children. Your walk with the Lord is of utmost importance. If you hold on to old stuff, you’ll create roadblocks in your intimate relationship with God and others.
4) Humility is often needed. Putting your needs aside for the sake of your children may require sacrifice. With God’s help, you can do it.