Whether our Mothers and Fathers remain married and are working together in one home or if they have separated and we are independently spending time with each of them, they can be our most impactful teachers. Upon celebrating Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day this past weekend, this week’s blog focuses on our parents and the important role each parent has to play in the lives of the children. An important task in every divorce involving children is to find a way to preserve a healthy relationship between the child and each of their parents.
I spent some time this Father’s Day weekend missing my Father. He passed away a couple of years ago. He was an incredibly special man. He was the Father that the rest of us Fathers strive to be. He was strong, self confident, hard working, and committed. He was soft, gentle, loving and forgiving. He laughed, smiled, hugged and gave us so much. He could make a delicious soup out of whatever was left in the refrigerator and his spaghetti had more meat than noodles. There was no better place to be than first thing in the morning at his side with a cup of coffee or after a long day’s work on the porch with an ice cold beer. He made me feel special every day of my life. He lived each day of his life with integrity and thoughtfulness. He found the greatest of pleasures in the simplest of things. I never had to look any further than my Father to have an example of the right way to walk through life.
Fortunately for me, I was born into the perfect storm. I was not only graced with the perfect Father, but I have a pretty fantastic Mother as well. Extremely smart, insightful, passionate and thoughtful. Fun loving, articulate, honest and opinionated. A lover of nature. Open minded. A fellow left hander. An advocate for justice. Finding a way to always make a celebration of the simplest of things. She too has made me feel loved every day of my life. She too modeled impeccable integrity for me.
My Mother and my Father taught me a lot of the same important lessons in life about love, and family and focusing on the important things. They each shared their own special gifts with me. My Father worked long hours to support our family and it was my Mother who provided the nurturing everyday. My Father got home and made it a point to be a large presence in our lives during the short window he had before the evening would come to an end. He knew how to tackle any task. He taught me to trust in myself and if there was any challenge it could be overcome. My Mother gave me a passion for knowledge and a striving to constantly be learning new things. They each taught me through their own examples. They were each there to support me through my journey and to make me feel loved no matter what came my way.
Parents are Important. I am not quite sure where I would be if I hadn’t been blessed with my two wonderful parents. As a divorce professional I want to provide couples with all the support I can to help them best preserve the relationships they have with their children. I recognize that in marriages different parents participate in varying degrees with the building of relationships with their children and sharing in the responsibilities of meeting the needs of the children. Our children may depend on one parent more than the other or may even feel more comfortable with one parent over the other. With my own children there were time frames in the lives of each of them where they seemed more connected with my Wife over me, or vice versa. It did not mean that one of us was the better or worse parent. We each just had different gifts to offer that met our children in different ways during different stages of their development. Having now been both a child and a parent, I want to assure that each child gets to continue receiving that beautiful gift of love and support that only our parents are able to give us. That can look different to each family. What is important is that we recognize the unique contribution that each parent provides to the children so that we can work together to preserve both of these relationships.
Working Together and Supporting One Another. Doing all we can to support the relationship our children have with their other parent is a great gift. Working with our spouse during divorce to assure the preservation of our children’s relationships with each parent should be one of our strongest motivations in our work. We may not feel like behaving that way given the emotion arising from the breakdown of our relationship with one another. I have had the pleasure of working with many couples who are united by a strong desire to protect their children from the divorce. This helps them put factoring in both how important you are as well as how important the other parent is when tackling these decisions puts you in the best place to accomplish what the children will most benefit from, the opportunity to enjoy both of you.
Avoiding a Tug-of-War. I understand that every couple is not able to work with each other to agree upon an acceptable child sharing schedule. One consequence of the fight is making children feel like they are stuck in the middle. The message they might receive is they have to pick between the two of you and one parent is supposedly better than the other. The fight implies that one parent does not support the other parent’s role. None of these messages may be intended but are commonly felt to varying degrees by our children. Sitting down and working together to tackle this important issue sends a very different message to the children than does our fighting.
Celebration of Our Parents Having spent the past month honoring our Mothers and now our Fathers, there is a lot to be thankful for in the gifts that we receive from both of our parents. Any work we can do to assure that our children receive those same gifts in the wake of divorce is such an important thing to strive for. If we are professionals working with divorcing couples, anything we can do to help them pursue this important result is a valuable contribution to them. Anything divorcing parents can do to preserve their children’s relationships with the other parent is just another one of the priceless gifts being bestowed on them.