Sometimes happiness comes under the most unexpected of circumstances.

Being a Family After Divorce

Posted: August 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: parenting, tips for a peaceful divorce | Tags: , , , | 16 Comments »

We took the kids trick or treating together last Halloween.

Last night I was having dinner with two divorcées and we were talking about our weeks.  As I gave them the run down I realized that I had spent a lot of time with my ex this week.  Then, ironically, he showed up to pick up our son, and my friend invited him to join us for dinner.  He didn’t stay very long, but his mere presence at social gathering of my friends is indicative of the kind of relationship we have.  We’re not only peaceful.  We are friends.  And, more importantly, we are family.

As I reflect back on the steps that have gotten us to such a place of unity, I decided to make a list of the most important things that divorcées can do to maintain a sense of a nuclear family both for themselves and for the sake of their children.

Put your personal conflicts aside and remember that you both want your kids to thrive.

Forget the legal battles where you sat on opposite sides of the table.  Find a way to put yourself back on the same team, and that team is your family.  So you aren’t married anymore.  So your ex may have pissed you off and continues to do so.  Be the change that you want to see.  Find things that you share in common, mainly the kids, and talk about how great they are doing.  Ask your ex about his or her family.  Avoid hot button topics and focus on peace.

Be together for important events.

Our fifteen-year-old dog is nearing the end of her life and this week we brought her to the vet, thinking that he might recommend putting her to sleep.  We went together as a family.  I explained the situation to my kids, who are 6 and 8, and they said they wanted to be there, and so did my ex.  [pullquote]This was a moment that transcended any of our conflicts and we were united in our attempts to make a very important decision for our dog, who was really our first child.
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Be the kind of couple that can attend together kids’ school events, family parties, holiday gatherings.  It is so important to children to have both of their parents involved in the significant moments of their lives.  At my daughter’s kindergarten graduation (I know, they do ceremonies for everything now), a father was there with his new girlfriend and her daughter sitting in the front row.  When his ex-wife arrived, the mother of his son, he asked the daughter to move so that they could all sit together.  I was so happy to see that and I praised him for such a smart move.  Honor and respect the parent of your children and they will eventually honor and respect you.  Sharing the successes of your children will also remind you and your ex of the love and bond that you once shared.

Create new family rituals.

When we first separated, I still had my ex over for dinner several times a week.  Then things got tenser, we started to date other people, and we realized that we were no longer married and couldn’t act like we were.  Now, three years later and with some ups and downs along the way, we have a weekly family night dinner.  I make something special to eat, and he cleans the kitchen, just like we did many years ago.  We try to avoid controversial topics and we tend to focus on the kids.  When we do talk, I try to tell him funny stories about my family or people we know or maybe bring up sports or politics, things that I know that we agree upon.  This Friday, my ex played baseball in the backyard with Jonah, while I helped Layla make jewelry.  The kids love having two parents to give them undivided attention like that.  They also like having us interact peacefully, as we often play games together or watch a TV show like “So You Think You Can Dance.”  Those kinds of activities put us into neutral territory in which we are unlikely to fight.

Do family outings together.

The Berkshire Harvest Festival 2007

This is not a step to take in the beginning of a separation process.  I know because we tried it and ended up fighting in the car together.  When tempers have softened, however, it can be a great way to bond and it is, of course, special to the kids.  It can be something local and easy like bowling, a fair, or going to see friends.  This week we went to New York City with the kids and their godparents, spent the night in CT, and went to the beach the next day just the four of us.  It was a long time to be together, but we made it work.

We remind ourselves that the kids are forming lifelong memories right now, and we certainly want those memories to be sweet.  My kids have already forgotten how we used to fight, and frankly, I couldn’t be more thrilled about that.

I just found a wonderful blog that does a weekly Thank You Journal.  Of course, I couldn’t be more grateful for my post-divorce  family and wanted to join in the ritual.  Check it out.

I recently found a good co-parenting resource that I put on my blogroll.  It’s called Co-Parenting 101.  Divorce ends marriages…but families endure.  Check it out.

Also new on my blog site is an e-mail subscription box that will deliver my postcards to your email inbox each time I write a new one.  Check that out too.

If you have any co-parenting tips to share with other readers, please comment.  I always love when people join in on the discussion.

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16 Comments on “Being a Family After Divorce”

  1. 1 MomZombie said at 10:59 am on August 16th, 2010:

    I wish I’d known about your Web site when I was forging my post-divorce life. But back then you were happily married. At best I can say my ex and I put our child first and consider what’s best for her in terms avoiding out-and-out conflict. At worst, we have no relationship whatsoever. It’s a need-to-know, speak-only-when-spoken-to type of exchange. Quite often, if he has nothing to say to me at a child-centered event, he will look right through me. At least we don’t fight. It seems as though this is the only option for us. I’ve offered to meet for coffee, etc. He always declines. I’ve always wondered what this has taught my child. Looking back, I should have called him out on it. Is it too late after 12 years?

  2. 2 Belinda Munoz + The Halfway Point said at 4:07 pm on August 16th, 2010:

    Hi Molly, I found this post very touching because your beautiful intention to seek peace, love for your children and strong belief in family make me feel that the world isn’t going to hell in a hand basket. You are teaching your children some valuable lessons that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

    Thank you for this post.

  3. 3 Molly Monet said at 10:29 pm on August 16th, 2010:

    Oh, it is never too late! Think about it, he probably looks right through you because he doesn’t know how else to deal with the situation. I have two specific ideas for you. First of all, warm up the energy by thinking about all the things that you like about him, or at least appreciate about him. Have you seen the list that I made called “Fifty Ways to Love Your Ex“? After that invite him to have dinner some night. You might even tell him what your objective is, to have a closer sense of family for your child.

    Keep at it and hold out hope! Keep me posted.

  4. 4 Molly Monet said at 10:31 pm on August 16th, 2010:

    You are welcome, Belinda! The world is only going to hell in a hand basket if we believe that it is. Isn’t that what your inspiring blog is about? Spreading optimism? It starts one person at a time. Thanks for the visit!

  5. 5 Kent Pelz said at 10:47 pm on August 16th, 2010:

    This was a very touching blog, Molly. I love how you are seeking what the highest potential for a peaceful divorce can look like…and then working to make that potential a reality. Making “family” — and all that that stands for — your first priority makes so much sense. Good job. I know my grandchildren will reap the benefit of your efforts (and Hugo’s efforts, too).

  6. 6 Deesha said at 12:51 am on August 17th, 2010:

    Thanks, Molly, for mentioning our site, but more importantly for the encouragement you provide for parents and families!

    Best,
    ~Deesha

  7. 7 Molly Monet said at 6:39 am on August 17th, 2010:

    You are welcome, Deesha! I found you on Twitter and was so glad to see another couple who was also so harmonious in their divorce. Keep spreading the word! Molly

  8. 8 Molly Monet said at 6:45 am on August 17th, 2010:

    I’m glad that you liked it. I had great role models in you and Mom for how to make my family my highest priority. Thank you so much for that! I love you.

  9. 9 Rudolfo Laspari said at 3:42 pm on August 17th, 2010:

    Who initiated your divorce? You or your ex? Was your ex on board with your decision at first, or did he have no choice but to make the best of things? How about your kids? Have you asked them if they would like it if mommy and daddy got back together? Would they prefer to see their parents all the time again? Have you asked them if that was preferable? What about society? Divorce is quite possibly the single most environmentally damaging action an individual person can take (in terms of wasting resources and environmental footprint) . What do you think society thinks of your choice?

    There’s no question you enjoy your situation. You get the exact lifestyle you want, and everyone must accommodate that. The ability to destroy a thing is control over that thing. There’s no question you have that. The question is whether you have used this power wisely. Have you stopped to consider what you have done to those around you just because you have the power to do these things?

    My guess is that if we had a rebuttable presumption that children remain with the respondent, you would have thought more carefully about your decision to impose divorce on your family. The power to destroy would no longer reside in the hands of just one family member who has grown dissatisfied.

  10. 10 Molly Monet said at 5:09 pm on August 17th, 2010:

    Rudolfo-

    Thanks for your input on the discussion and for having the courage to ask me hard questions. My ex initiated the split so, no, I didn’t impose it on anyone. I resisted it until the the moment he left, and then I found that my life was much more enjoyable without him in my house. He is happier, and frankly the kids are much better off with parents who are amicable and living apart than to have parents who fight all the time. So I see it as a win-win.

    Frankly, I don’t make my personal life decisions based on what society thinks.

  11. 11 Rudolfo Laspari said at 6:27 pm on August 17th, 2010:

    Oh my goodness! I had no idea! I’m so sorry! It’s so unusual for a man to initiate divorce that I practically assumed you did. I shouldn’t have made that assumption. It does happen the other way around. I apologize for rashly jumping to conclusions.

    In that case, you are showing tremendous strength trying to make things work so well in spite of it all.

  12. 12 Molly Monet said at 7:52 pm on August 17th, 2010:

    You know, Rudolfo. I try not to assign blame because everyone has to do what is best for themselves. I’ve found a way to be happy regardless of his actions and that is a very peaceful place to be.

    I am not an advocate of divorce, but I’m not categorically against it either. You might be interested in my piece on this http://www.postcardsfromapeacefuldivorce.com/349/an-advocate-for-divorce/

  13. 13 Rudolfo Laspari said at 10:48 pm on August 17th, 2010:

    I am not categorically against it either — people can do what they want in general. But when kids are involved, and the marriage has no violence or threats of violence present, initiating a divorce seems like a profoundly self-centered thing to do.

    Still, it’s impressive that, for the sake of the kids, you are willing to look past your ex’s initiating the divorce.

  14. 14 Tina said at 7:38 pm on September 3rd, 2010:

    Thank you so much for this blog post! My ex-husband and I separated 3 years ago (divorced 2years now). Over the last year, we have finally become friends again and do many of the family things you mention here with our now 5-yr old daughter. Some people have criticized our arrangement and had me feeling like maybe it wasn’t the best thing for our daughter. This post confirmed for me that I am doing what is best for her. I want her to have both her parents there for the important events because, as you said, she is forming life long memories. It’s nice to deal with him as a co-parent and friend, without all the drama we had in our marriage.

  15. 15 Molly Monet said at 9:04 pm on September 3rd, 2010:

    Tina- I am so glad that you resonated with it. Most of my friends and family support our decision but I did date a guy who kept telling me that it was weird and I told him that I was happy with it and that was all that counted. It’s great to still be friends and a family. We had a family dinner and game night tonight and the kids are super happy. So hold on to the vision!

  16. 16 How to Cook for One | Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce said at 9:44 pm on September 13th, 2010:

    [...] but my ex got regular sex as well.  Can you believe that we ever broke up?  He appreciates our weekly family night dinners because he still gets a taste of sumpin’ sumpin’ (not what you are [...]


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