When it comes to co-parenting your child or children after divorce, the temptation to try to make up for the past is always present as feelings such as guilt, disappointment, and frustration (on the part of a co-parent) can interfere with your ability to parent in the ‘here and now’. As a divorce and after divorce coach, I see how painful the divorce experience is when it comes to parenting, especially in terms of the remorse parents feel about what has happened in the past. “We yelled too much in front of the kids”, or “I was so distracted by my unhappiness that I didn’t see my children’s unhappiness”, and “Things in our house got so chaotic and crazy, it couldn’t have been good for the kids” are but a few of the regret-filled comments I hear, regularly. Left unresolved, these seem to swirl around in the minds of co-parents and become activated when the kids are present. Co-parents can find themselves over buying, over doing, and over trying when the children are around as the burden of past mistakes drives them into action.
Co-Parents Can Get ‘Stuck’ In The Past
As well, co-parents can keep bringing up the past with their child or children in an effort to ‘talk things through’, ‘set the record straight’ or ‘to help them understand what really happened’. Caution is advised before these types of conversations take place as these can keep past hurts ‘alive and kicking’ in the minds of children as well as their parents. Before attempting to do so, it is important to be certain that having this kind of ‘talk’ with your child or children occurs based on THEIR best interests, rather than simply to assuage your guilt or to make you feel better. (Sometimes, it is difficult to be clear about your own motives so bouncing your ideas off someone else first can help clarify the situation).
Focusing On The Present Or Future Is Better For Your Children
In these and other ways, the past can remain ever present when the kids are around. This is unfortunate as the time after divorce is best used for settling in to a new family constellation, perhaps a new town or residence, and for healing. If a co-parent or co-parents are willing to talk with a professional about their regrets or past mistakes, they may be able to begin to make peace with the past. This benefits children as it frees them to focus on and enjoy the present and plan for the future when spending time with mom or dad. Parents who have not yet worked to find resolution, forgiveness, or at least acceptance of their past mistakes, will most likely continue, to some extent, to struggle with and be distracted by the past where the kids are concerned.