You may read this entry’s title and immediately think of a stream of ungenerous ideas. Something along the lines of, “My kids can learn firsthand what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, brainless, hopeless, heartless, bug-eyed, worm-headed their mother is.” (With apologies and acknowledgements to the brilliant screenwriting of John Hughes1 in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.) Yet going through a divorce really does offer some valuable lessons your children can learn: ideas about how rational adults settle differences, how the legal system works, and how everyone deserves fair representation by legal counsel, among other things.
7. Communication is Crucial
William Shakespeare wrote in The Tempest, “Thine forward voice, now, is to speak well of thine friend; thine backward voice is to utter foul speeches and to detract.” Your children can learn from your divorce that forthright communication is far more valuable than the slippery tongue of someone saying one thing on one occasion and the opposite thing on another.
If you and your spouse have spoken harshly to each other, or (far worse) have talked disparagingly of each other to your own children, after the divorce is a great time to clean up both your acts. Avoid speaking ill of their mother in front of her children. Go out of your way to communicate more honestly and openly with your ex-wife and your kids.
6. I Complete Myself
An important message to convey to your children is that nobody absolutely must be with someone else in order to be a whole person. If you married out of a sense of inadequacy, the marriage did not complete you. If your ex-wife married you because she had low self-esteem, the marriage did not cure that. During your marriage these fissures no doubt remained unfilled and contributed to the separation and divorce.
Make sure your kids—the boys and especially the girls—realize they do not have to have a significant other in order to be competent and content. This Jerry McGuire myth (“You complete me!”) can be very catastrophic when it comes to forming genuine relationships.
5. Do Not Settle
Stand for what you believe in, believe in what you want, and work to get it. Do not settle into a humdrum life after divorce. Relish the days, enjoy the moments with your children, and learn from your past so you can avoid future regrets.
4. Confession is Good for the Soul
If during your marriage you harbored resentment or anger toward your wife, you no doubt never admitted to doing anything wrong. Your performance in the marriage and with the family was perfect; any issues originated with your wife. That is wholly unrealistic, and after the divorce you can take some time to step away from that stance and confess to errors, mistakes, and imperfections. Confess these in an open and neutral way to your children (and of course to your ex-wife; she does not deserve the burden of thinking you have not grown up).
3. The World Is Full of Surprises
Once you and your wife have moved into other circles, your children should expect to meet new people and experience new things. Even within the great state of Virginia, plenty of new wonders and surprises await. These could include everything from mundane to magical:
- New cities, towns or landscapes to explore
- New vacation spots
- New restaurants and stores
- A new close friend for you
- New playmates for your children (your new friend’s kids)
2. Good Parents 24/7
Simply because you and your ex-wife are apart does not relieve either of you of your jobs as parents. Reinforce this with your children. Let them know that, even if she has sole physical custody, you are always part of their lives as their Dad. Live up to their expectations.
Do not disappoint them with empty promises, and remind them through your actions that good parenting transcends miles, troubles and heartache. Remind your kids every chance you get that you love them and are their Dad.
1. Honesty Matters
Turning to Shakespeare again—this time from Two Gentlemen of Verona—do not be “Thou subtle, perjur’d, false, disloyal man!” Being honest with the courts, your lawyer, your ex-wife’s lawyer, and your ex-wife was necessary to get you through the divorce with the lightest mental burden. Pass that lesson on to your children: be honest, even when you have to reveal something that pains you or causes embarrassment. The moment’s discomfort is worth keeping a reputation as an honest person.
Show your children you respect the law by contacting The Firm for Men online or calling our offices at 757-383-9184 to discuss your divorce, issues after divorce, or child custody challenges. We serve men exclusively in family law matters, earning us a reputation across Hampton Roads as family law and divorce attorneys relentlessly fighting for men’s rights.