Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How to Love Children Through the Pain of Divorce By Gerald Rogers

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By Gerald Rogers

Tonight, Peter, my little four year old cried himself to sleep calling for his mom, and as I lay beside him, I cried too. There’s no way around it… Divorce sucks. And there are many casualties. The saddest are the little hearts that are hurt in the process. EVERY child deserves to grow up in a home under the strength and protection of a loving father and mother who are always there for them. And every parent has an obligation to fight to provide that for them.

… and sometimes, it is not always possible.

And for those of us who can no longer offer that, we mourn for what we have lost.

For me, I miss being the little things the most...

I miss reading stories to my little ones as we snuggled at bedtime. I miss having my family gathered at night for scriptures and prayer. I miss the game nights and family home evenings and the daily little ways my kids would surprise me with their laughter. I miss jumping on the tramp with them on summer afternoons, and playing games with them barefoot on the lawn as the sun drifted beyond the horizon. I miss Sunday morning German pancakes and the rush of getting ready for church. I miss our many traditions and the daily magic of just being a dad and discovering life together with my favorite people in the world, my best friends - my children.

And when I am sitting in the still, lonely silence of my condo at the end of yet another day, I miss them dearly.

In the space of what we lose, we are faced with a choice of what we get to create...

How do we as parents STILL provide the support, love, encouragement and happiness these kids deserve despite the major transition?

How do we let them know that, no matter what, they are loved?

How do we remind them of their greatness, build their confidence in themselves, and encourage them to follow their passions?

How do we help them to make better choices than we made?

I don’t have all the answers. In no way do I think of myself of a perfect dad, or one that has it all figured out. Our divorce is still fresh, and it has only been 5 months since we have been separated. I know I have a lot to learn still.

There are answers I have found though that are worth sharing. And in those answers I have found a deeper commitment as a parent to continue to work to be better and to provide, not just financially, but emotionally for them as well. These are lessons that can serve all of us...


1) I will ALWAYS RESPECT THEIR MOTHER… They will NEVER, ever hear me say a negative or demeaning thing about their mom. They WILL hear me pray for her, compliment her and stand up for her. They will know that I stand behind her in the rules she has, and the things she feels is important. I will never ‘compete’ for their love, by trying to out-do their mother. They will know that they are lucky to have the mom that they do… and I will remind them every chance I get. Their happiness AND personal self-esteem, to a large degree, is built on that relationship with her. They need to respect her, and they learn from my example.

2) I will BUILD a NEW RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR MOTHER… Even though my marriage with her is over, my relationship with her is not. For as long as we live, she will be a part of my life. And if she can longer be my wife, I want her to be my FRIEND. In that, I am conscious to make every interaction with her, one that builds that relationship up, rather than tears it down. My kids deserve that from us.

3) I will WORK AS A TEAM with their Mother for the needs of the kids… In the transition, there are a lot of times where we need to be flexible, and need each-others support. Whether it’s schedules, or responsibilities or various needs of the kids… nothing will ever fit the perfect little box of the divorce decree. It requires us to always ask, “what is best for the kids and how can we support each other in creating it?” I will communicate openly so we have common rules and common goals.

4) I will ALWAYS REMIND THEM THAT I LOVE THEM… It’s not possible to remind them too much. But this is a message that needs to be SHOWN and not just said. Hugs, words, gifts, service and time... Like adults, each kid has their own love language in which they receive love… and ALL OF THEM share the same language which is PLAY. They FEEL LOVED when I SPEND MEANINGFUL TIME with them playing with them and doing things that are important to them. One of my jobs as a dad is to LEARN TO ENJOY what they enjoy, and to BE INTERESTED in what they are interested in. (Even if that means learning to play Minecraft, and talking gossip about Taylor Swift.) The more I can connect with them on that level, the easier it is for me to connect with their heart and be part of their life.

5) I will LOVE THEM INDIVIDUALLY… they need special one-on-one time where I can be FULLY PRESENT with just them. I create this by scheduling daddy-dates and by seeking for opportunities to connect with them personally whenever I am with them.

6) I will ALWAYS LOOK TO CREATE UNFORGETTABLE MEMORIES… I will treasure the moments I have and put extra effort into creating special experiences. I will plan meaningful vacations, look for chances to do fun things, and build NEW TRADITIONS.

7) I will LAUGH WITH THEM… I will find jokes to share, games to play, funny movies we can watch. I will be the silliest dad in the world for them, just to make them smile and to remember how great life is.

I will LET THEM MOURN… Like my four year old tonight, sometimes they need to cry, and I just need to be there and cry with them. To tell them I understand it sucks, and some things in life are no fun at all. I will be there for them when they need to talk, and give them space when they don’t want to. I will let them know it is ok to feel whatever they are feeling.

9) I will TEACH THEM TO LOVE GOD… Even though I may not always be able to be there for them, HE CAN. And I will teach them both through my words and my example that they can TRUST HIM to lead them through any challenge in life.

10) I will ALWAYS SHOW UP and BE THEIR DAD… They will see me at their games, and their performances and when they give talks in Sunday school. I will be there when they want to talk on the phone or have some daddy time. They will always know that they are a priority in my life. I will be there for them.

Truth is, being a good parent in a divorced situation is the same as being a good parent in any situation.

I’m not pretending I’m always the best dad, but I’m trying. Sometimes I am hurting, and sometimes I am distracted, and sometimes I am selfish and impatient. But I am always reminded when I see the faces of those amazing kids that they deserve the best dad, and so I try to step up and live these things a little better.

Since I only have every Tuesday night and every other weekend with them, I am more aware than ever about the value of the time that I have. I treasure it, and try to make the most of it.

I have been surprised and relieved that my kids, for the most part, are happy and adjusting well. I feel like most of that credit I owe to their mom who is a woman with amazing gifts and strengths and who provides a beautiful and stable environment for them day to day. I am blessed to know they have a mother like that.

When my kids have asked me why we got divorced I have simply said, “I know that’s hard to understand, but the only thing you need to know is that even though your mom and dad aren’t married anymore, you STILL have a MOM and you STILL have a DAD who love you very much and always will. I want you to remember, I WILL ALWAYS be here for you.” And then I give them a big hug.

This, in the end, is the only thing they are wanting to hear. They’re not looking for reasons or blame. They just want to know that they are safe and that they are loved.

I don’t think there is a way to insulate them from all of the consequences of our mistakes as parents. But I do believe that no matter what challenges we face, we can face them together as a family, and continue to create an amazing life, even through the pain and uncertainty of transition.

Despite divorce, we can still show up as the parents they deserve to have.

Our kids are listening. And they learn more from our actions than they ever will from our words.

I share these thoughts, only because I know I’m not alone in this situation. I’ve talked to many who are also trying to navigate these same uncertain waters, and trying to understand how to best help their kids through the pain of divorce or separation.

If you have insights, or experience that you think would serve, please comment.

If you know anyone else that may also be looking for ideas to be the best parent for their kids, and if you think any of these insights might serve, PLEASE SHARE.

You never know whose life you will change when you do.

AS PARENTS – it is our DUTY to step up and to leave behind the petty concerns and bickering and blame that tear down each other, and to rise to be the PARENTS our kids deserve to have.

So regardless of what your situation is, next time you see your kid, go up and give them a hug, remind them how much you love them and how grateful you are that you get to have them in your life…

... and ask yourself, “how can I be a better parent today?”

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