The current divorce rate in the US is 50% - in fact, 2,400 divorces occur every day!* While couples with children are less likely to get divorced than couples without children, thousands of parents do choose to get divorced every day. Since this issue affects each of us in some way (chances are, all of my readers have in some way been affected by divorce - either you are divorced yourself, your parents are divorced, or your siblings or friends are divorced), I thought it would make sense to devote a post to divorce. However, while I am a child of divorce, I am not personally divorced. So I interviewed my amazing sister who is divorced, and is a wonderful single mom to two awesome kids - a 12-year-old boy and an almost 10-year-old girl.
A: I am a divorced single mother of two children - a daughter who is almost 10, and a son who just turned 12.
Q: How long were you married, and how long have you been divorced?
A: I met my ex in 2003, and we were married in 2006. We were married for three years, separated in 2009, and our divorce was official in 2013.
Q: Tell us about your current relationship with your ex:
A: We try to remain civil to each other. We only talk when it is referring to the kids, but we make a conscious effort to be polite to each other.
Q: What is your custody arrangement? How do you think it works for your family?
A: We have a true joint custody arrangement. We live close enough to each other that this works well. We both have our children for two set days per week and we rotate every other weekend. I think that it is fair for our situation, because it is completely 50\50. We live only 2 streets away, and the kids can attend the same school and keep the same friends. Also, they can walk to the other parent's house anytime if they want to, as long as they walk together. They both walk to their dad's house every morning before school because I have to be at work earlier than my ex.
Q: How old were your kids when you got divorced?
A: At the time of our initial separation, our children were 5 and 7; they were 9 and 11 when we were legally divorced.
Q: How did your kids handle the divorce? Did you see any behavioral or emotional issues? If so, how did you handle them?
A: It is difficult for any child to understand. We decided to offer counseling services and lots of support to help guide our children through. We also used artistic and sports team outlets. We did have some difficulties and I believe we will face more issues as time goes on. Our biggest issue has been the confusion and hurt that our kids experienced from the adults speaking badly about each other. My daughter even threatened to run away once because she was so sick of hearing bad things about me. My ex and I have made a very mindful decision to stop any bad talk about the other parent, and I really try to stick to that. I let my kids vent if they need to, but I don't add anything to the discussion. I don't think that happens consistently at the other house though, so the issues continue.
A: Every day is different. However, I believe they are handling things much better now.
Q: Did you read any specific books or see a professional regarding how to handle divorce with kids?
A: I've read many books/blogs about divorce, single-parenting, starting over, and dating - snippets of this and that. It is helpful to get an outside opinion; however, because every circumstance is different, you have to follow your own path eventually. This book has been helpful, and I do read it every once in awhile as issues crop up.
Q: What is your support system?
A: My support system consists of family and friends.
Q: What advice would you give parents going through a divorce?
A: Breathe! This is going to be difficult at times. It will not be perfect. It will not be a complete disaster. Find a good support system. Find a good outlet to keep sane. Personally, I enjoy exercise, playing music, cleaning, and perhaps a nice glass of wine to keep my head on straight. Focus on your love of your children. Divorce is difficult enough without children involved. Remember to not lose sight of being a loving parent, first and foremost. Guide your children, and let your kids be kids. Be mindful of the fact that they are impressionable and don't need to be part of the divorce.