Divorce – your Family is not broken
Divorce – your Family is not broken. In fact, I really can’t abide the phrase. Broken homes, families, people please stop.
‘Broken’ is defined as ‘disunited’ and ‘divided’. In the context of separating and divorcing families, it doesn’t have to be that way. Now that’s not to say that divorce will be plain sailing for everyone- that’s naïve but for many, your ‘family’ does not have to be broken.
Family is a social construct
Family is a social construct. Go back 60 years, and the ‘modern family’ of the 1950’s looked very different to how it looks today. Generations of family lived together under one crammed and over-crowded roof. If you owned that roof, you were lucky. In some cultures, inter-generational living is still the norm but for the rest of us, not so much. We are seeing a rise in the ‘boomerang’ generation – adult children who return to the nest because they can’t afford to rent, or rent and save for a deposit for a home of their own. Families are changing. So when it comes to your separation and divorce, what if you chose to see that your family is not broken, just different? How would that change your thoughts and feelings?
All families evolve
All families evolve and change over time. Health, job loss, wealth creation and aspiration can have a profound impact upon the in which families behave. When times are hard, families can struggle emotionally and financially. Sometimes the wife becomes the breadwinner through choice or necessity. Sometimes a parent has no choice but to take job miles from the family home and can only return at weekends. We also have single-parent families, blended families, families with two mummies or two daddies. The phenomenon of the ‘nuclear family’ is long gone.
Your family is not broken – set the intention
If you set your intention that your family will not be ‘broken’, there’s a significant chance that it won’t be. Now of course, you can’t control what the other parent does, but know that you do have influence over it by the way you respond. Yes, by the way you respond. That means, every time you engage in responding and rising to the bait, you are complicit in the behaviour. So, don’t engage. Ignore goading calls, texts and emails.
Focus on your children and their needs. Bring yourself back to that every time you get tempted to ‘just send one more reply’. Will it be easy? No! But if you change the way you respond and ignore, the other parent will have nothing to feed off and overtime, will stop.
If family mediation is safe for you, use it. Only a mediator in a MIAM can make that decision. If you are experiencing emotional, physical or financial abuse, mediation may not be suitable for you – but again, you cannot make that decision unilaterally. The mediator will also be able to sign post additional sources of support for you.
Do the work
Doing the work to get to a place of co-parenting isn’t always easy. For most people, it is possible but it takes time and commitment on both sides. Parenting Plans, mediation, and couples therapy can help you with this. There may be times when it goes wrong – forgive and get back on track. Good co-parenting is both a habit and a skill. You didn’t give up learning to ride a bike, did you?
Focus on what’s working
Keep focused on what is working right now. What aspects of your ‘family life’ are particularly important to you and the children? How can these aspects move forward into your new co-parenting role? For example, if dad always took the children swimming on a Saturday morning, is there any reason to change that? If both of you always went to events at school together, can that continue? Remember, family is a social construct that you get to build your own way. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. Your family is the only thing you need to focus on.
When it doesn’t work
Perhaps your co-parent is an abuser, perhaps they are narcissistic, perhaps they are not allowed to see your children unsupervised or they’ve disappeared and don’t see the children at all. It could be that the other parent is flaky and unreliable. Does that mean your family is ‘broken’? No. If your family is you and the children, that’s your family. Your family is not broken – it has just morphed into something different. Your resilience, courage and ability to put the needs of your children first whilst also taking care of your own physical and emotional needs will ensure that your family is healthy and happy. Might you and your children need additional support from therapy, or a great group of friends to help out? Almost certainly at some point if you and the children have been through trauma. But remember this, your family is not broken, and neither are you.
Crombie Wilkinson Your Family First, are based in York, Selby and Malton. Contact us today on 01904 624185 to find out how we can help you and your family. We offer public Funding and so our help may* be free for you.