Lately I’ve been hearing about a lot of marriages breaking down and leading to divorce. Several of you have written me privately wondering how you can keep divorce from wearing down your children. As a marriage is one of the ultimate “teams” in our lives that relies on incredible teamwork, it deserves to be discussed in these terms to help our children to the best of our ability. It just so happens that the Powerful Word of the Month this Month is Teamwork and marriage is a great example of a team that often needs maintenance.
How can we teach teamwork when the most obvious team in a child’s life, the marriage of his or her parents, is breaking down?
Nobody’s perfect. No marriage is perfect. No couple is perfect. But when it comes to our children, we must show them that the marriage team can deal with problems, grow and change. Even if the parents feel that they can no longer be together as a couple, as a parental team, they can still be strong (barring issues of abuse, of course). It’s not the marital issues that become the biggest problem but rather how the parents handle the issues that threaten the marriage or the divorce itself.
How are you handling the stress? Are you bashing your “teammate” in front of your children? Are you refusing to take any responsibility for the problems or issues you are having? It’s time to stop. A team relies on the behavior of more than one person. Think of any sports team. If teammates are screaming at one another, playing the blame game, and ducking responsibility, they are not being a good teammate themselves. It’s time to take a different approach.Reach out for help. Find a way to blow off steam. Talk to a mentor or a friend. Get involved with something constructive and find a way to face the issues without pointing a finger.
Are you listening to the other person? Are you talking but refusing to open your ears? The best conversations typically happen with more listening and less talking. As part of the marriage team, it’s important to take a step back, get some perspective, and allow the other person to have their say. If you need help listening to one another, a marriage counselor or success coach may be in order.Your children must see you talking and resolving issues if you expect them to be able to do the same in their lives.
Are you dragging in your children to be pick sides? Be careful. This typically backfires in more ways than one. Not only are you asking the child to take a swing against the other parent, you are sending confusing messages that can break trust and leave your child feeling vulnerable. I know of plenty of parents who’ve taken the approach of “turning their children against another parent” (called parental alienation) and wind up finding that their approach hurts everyone involved.
How do you deal with parental issues such that the team stays intact or gets stronger despite the issues? In the end, the parental team does not only affect 2 people but rather, the whole family including the children who rely on you for strength, love, support, and security.
Would love to hear your take on the topic.