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When it comes to parenting after divorce, anger and jealousy are the most destructive emotions, perhaps causing you to hate your ex-spouse. You may be unable to let go of these feelings because you can’t forgive your ex-spouse. It is especially difficult if you feel you were dumped for someone else, treated badly during your relationship, or no longer feel loved. When you can’t forgive, you stay angry, and this anger is apparent to your child. If you can learn to forgive your ex, you will become less angry, and both you and your child will benefit.
Unfortunately, if you’re like many divorced parents, your anger is likely to be expressed in front of your child. You don’t want to hurt your child, but when your anger erupts, the fallout is damaging. Sometimes your anger is obvious — derogatory statements or arguing with the other parent in front of your child — or more subtle, such as when you tell your daughter that she doesn’t have to listen to her mother. If you haven’t learned to forgive, you may act in ways that are damaging to your child.
If you can forgive your ex-spouse, you will go a long way toward keeping your child out of the middle, and be better prepared to model skills of conflict resolution.
If you have truly forgiven your ex-spouse, you will be able to communicate without arguing and bringing up problems of the past. Getting past the “couple conflicts” you’ve experienced for many years will allow you to focus on your child’s needs — and on your own. If you are a forgiving parent, you can say “hello” to the other parent in public places, and act in a business-like way when issues need to be discussed. Forgiving parents treat their ex-spouse just as they would treat other acquaintances and business partners. Divorced parents who have forgiven one another are able to be partners in raising their children. Forgiveness is an important step for responsible, post-divorce parenting.
It is important to remember that if you remain angry at your ex-spouse, you are likely to continue fighting. Whatever the dispute, you will try to win. You must do everything in your power to stop the fighting and reduce the conflicts in front of your child. Use your parenting plan and a different style of communication to avoid conflict. You can use professional mediators, evaluators, and special masters to talk about the issues away from your child. Learn to agree with each other and parent your child the best you can. The key element is to eliminate conflicts in front of your child.
Adapted from Parenting After Divorce: A Guide to Resolving Conflicts and Meeting Your Children’s Needs, Philip M. Stahl, PhD. Available at online and local bookstores or directly from Impact Publishers, Inc., PO Box 6016 , Atascadero , CA 93423-6016 , http://www.bibliotherapy.com/ or phone 1-800-246-7228.