Divorce, Co-Parenting, and Forgiveness

mother hugging her children

While marital issues are between the parents, specifically the decision to get a divorce, unfortunately, that decision does impact your child. Your concept of co-parenting also impacts your child. While you may not have control over the words, actions, and behaviors of the other parent, what you do have control over are your own words and actions. When you can find ways to manage your own emotions and healing surrounding the divorce, and particularly to seek to forgive your former partner, you create the best possible scenario for your child. Whether or not the divorce was in your control or not, you have control over your ability to forgive.

Facing the Realities of Divorce

Regardless of the reasons for a divorce, and no matter how hard you may have worked to save the marriage or how much you may have suffered, the reality is that the marriage is over. However, when there are one or more children involved, your roles as a parent and likely as a co-parent are even more important. Separating marriage issues and parenting issues can be difficult, but your job as a parent now is to be able to do exactly that.

While there are many considerations in filing for divorce, particularly the division of property and finances, one of the most important considerations is the custody of children and how you approach co-parenting. You may not have been able to protect your child from the reality of a divorce, but you can do all in your power to seek and maintain appropriate custody and co-parenting for your child.

What You Do and Do Not Have Control Over

Recognizing what you do and do not have control over will help you to create the most positive environment for your child, regardless of the less-than-ideal circumstances. Some of the things that you DO have control over include:

  • Your attitude toward the divorce and co-parenting
  • The words you use about your former partner in front of your child
  • How you communicate with your child
  • The structure, discipline, and environment you create while your child is in your custody
  • The amount and type of support you provide for your child
  • Whether or not and how you communicate with your former partner in your child’s presence
  • Your physical and emotional presence in your child’s life

On the opposite side, you do NOT have control over any of those same things that your ex says or does at any time. While you can do your best to communicate the importance of your child’s needs and try to set up good co-parenting and discipline plans, you do not have control over what the other parent says or how the other parent acts.

Likewise, you do NOT have control over your child’s reactions or emotions surrounding the divorce or custody arrangements. If your child acts out because of the divorce or the conditions created by the divorce, you only have control over your own actions and reactions surrounding their response. While you can create opportunities for forgiveness and healing, your child’s response is their own, even if it can sometimes be painful for you.

The Dangers of Guilt, Blame, and Grudges

One of the easiest traps to fall into in divorce is creating negative emotions and conditions surrounding your ex-partner or the divorce itself. Using words or actions that may create guilt, blame, or demonstrate grudges toward your ex can also make a significant negative impact on your child. Children have a tendency to blame themselves for their parents’ divorce, so it is important that you are responsible for both your words and actions. By keeping honest, open communication with your child that is straightforward yet unbiased, you can create a healthy environment for them to process their own emotions.

The Power of Forgiveness

Forgiveness offers healing for you and may create a more positive environment for your child’s healing as well. Your forgiveness of pain or harm from your ex within the marriage or divorce does not need to condone their painful words or behaviors toward you, but your forgiving them allows you to heal from your own pain. Likewise, your self-forgiveness brings healing that can positively impact not only your own life but your child’s as well. Your ex does not need to forgive you for you to forgive them and invoke that healing power into your family.

While you cannot change the past, nor the current situation within your family, you do have the power to forgive and heal yourself. This power can make you a better parent and a better co-parent. Forgiveness can also minimize the impact of the divorce on your child and make you more capable of offering compassion, healing, and support for your child during this time.

Divorce and co-parenting are difficult for everyone involved, including your child. While many aspects of these situations are not within your control, including how your child reacts, your words and actions are. When you focus on the forgiveness of both your former partner and yourself surrounding the divorce, you can find your own healing and also improve the situation for your child. When your child is acting out for any reason and abusing drugs or alcohol, Sustain Recovery can help. We understand that the behaviors themselves are not the problem but rather their attempt to cope with their problems. We also teach them to be responsible for their own emotions and responses. We offer everything they need to be responsible for their own healing. We also involve the families so that adolescents can have discussions with family members in a safe, therapeutic environment. Call Sustain today at (949) 407-9052 to determine if our program is right for your family.