Consistent Sailing with Kids
“Storms come and go, but you never leave the rudder. Your hands are blistered and your skin burns from the sun by day and the storm’s stinging seawater by night. But you must move forward, ever forward, holding the course. Holding your craft straight on its journey as the world tries to batter and toss you to other distant shores. You hold tight and pray for strength to finish the journey, reach your destination, and safely deliver your precious young cargo to the calm waters and distant shore that you want for their future.”
Steady as She Goes
If there is one thing that I hope you take away from this book and chapter, it is knowing that above all things your kids come first during and after your divorce. (If you have them… otherwise it’s your cat or your ex’s 401k and American Airlines points.) “Putting a brave face on it” may seem fake, but your positive optimism and clear sense of family direction will help them through and beyond this difficult life transition. They know you are in pain and that life as they know it is changing. They did not make the decision to set out on this journey. They are your most precious cargo and, for both theirs and your own sake, you need to make it as calm and consistent as possible. The opposite can come back as a teen hurricane or even extra lodgers in their late 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and beyond…
A Consistent Course
We all know there is not a plan during the divorce other than to win. But to win what? Unless you are divorcing a Donald, there is no positive financial gain.
If you find yourself mid divorce, I’m sure you are on an emotional rollercoaster. I know I was. There were many days that I could not seem to keep it together nor could I tell you one iota of what my life plan was, but I kept it away from my kids and in the confidence of a few close friends. In elementary school your child may have issues with little Jonnie pulling pigtails. By high school it’s sexting, constant emotional drama, raging hormones, and homework. Keeping your home as a place of calm with consistent messaging on being positive about life, its opportunities, and looking forward will keep your kids coming home and save some of your hair left in your head.
Keep it simple. Post school schedules and all activities on the fridge. Make constant reminder notes and enforce family dinners together WITH the phones (including yours) switched off. Simple to say, difficult to do. It’s ok to have some TV dinners. It’s ok that they spend time alone in their rooms. Just keep it together, keep in contact with your kids’ friends’ parents, teachers, coaches, and the ex, even if only via text or an app.
Being consistent is not to be confused with being strict or iron fisted when parenting. It means consistently communicating, listening, and reacting with logic and not emotion to difficult situations. There will be storms and lightning as your kids transition from home to home and as they get older. Know what fight tis worth fighting and what is just being stubborn. To me, parenting is about getting my child ready to set sail on their own as confident and independent captains of their own ships rather than passively going through life as tethered lifeboats, constantly bumping my rear and pulling them along on my journey.
Lead by Example
During the times that you don’t know what to do, act like you do.
When it’s dark, be a light.
How you act and model during the toughest and sometimes darkest times of your life and how you treat your ex during those times will shape and effect your kids for the rest of their lives. So, steady as she goes. Breathe first before speaking. Think long term and not in the moment. Be as even-keeled as humanly possible.
I try to model the “fruits of the spirit.” Nope, it’s not something I drink, though that could be an adaptation that works. I try to model actions and produce positive characteristics in my life I want others to see–loving more, being joyful or finding happiness during tough times, being at peace in my current situation or place in life, showing more patience, being good, kind, gentle, humble to others and myself, and show positive self-restraint in areas that could cause harm to others.
The Ex Factor
Simply never, ever, ever, eeeeeevvvvver (or as much as humanly possible) say a negative, harmful, disparaging, or hurtful word against your ex in front of your children. Keeping constancy is part of keeping respect as a parent and the role of being a parent. If you slip up, apologize quickly and make sure your kids understand that it is not an acceptable behavior. On bad days, a soundproofed car or with closed eyes in your special place in your head, feel free to swear it off. Or take it out at the gym…
Becoming The World’s Best Sailor…
A goal of your new journey should be to become the very best You, and with that, the very best parent. Finish your journey bearing bountiful fruit with awesome whole kids.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23 New International Version (NIV)
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