Going through a divorce is an extremely difficult time, not only for the husband and wife, but also for their children. One thing to remember is that the decision to divorce is the parent's decision, not the child's. And yet, the divorce drastically impacts the child just as much as it impact the parents.
The main responsibility of a parent is to take care of their children - physically, mentally and emotionally. If parents going through a divorce can keep this at the center of their thoughts, actions and decisions, they will naturally be able to be conscious parents to their children. Conscious parenting through divorce means never to say negative things about the other parent to their children; they will never force their children into a situation where the children feel they have to make a choice between the parents. Instead, conscious parenting through divorce means putting the child's needs first.
When I was going through my divorce, my husband and I agreed that every decision we made would be based upon what was best for our sons - this included parenting decisions, housing choices and financial issues. For us, this meant that we always spoke to the boys together whenever there was going to be a change in our lives. We agreed that all large parenting decisions would be made together; neither of us would make a decision, tell the boys and then tell the other parent.
We also continued to refer to ourselves as a family - just a family that lived in two houses. Every Saturday was 'family day.' All of us spent the day together doing various activities and sharing meals, even when it was difficult for my ex and I to be in the same room together, family day ALWAYS happened. In the same vein, we attended school functions, parent-teacher conferences and the children's doctor's appointment together.
Interestingly, few people realized we were separated and later divorced.
Over the years, this conscious parenting through divorce was not always easy. And whenever we thought it was, something would happen to make us realize that ongoing communication and hard work will always be required to make this work for all of us. The payoff, however, has been huge. Never once since the divorce have the boys tried to play us off against one another. They know we discuss and reach parenting decisions together.
The boys, both teenagers now, have never doubted how much we both love them. and they have concrete evidence in their everyday lives, that they come first for both of us. They trust that we always take their needs and concerns into consideration, and they trust us even when we have to make hard decision they do not necessarily agree with. I don't think they truly understand everything we have done over the years, but they do realize that we have very different relationships then the the divorced parents of their friends. And, they have both shared with us how thankful they are that we are all still a family - albeit one that lives separately.
Recently, one of my elder son's teacher called to tell me of a conversation that had occurred that day. The class was talking about heroes, mentors and people they looked up to. My son told the class that he looked up to his parents because we had modeled healthy, sane and respectful relationship. That made all the hard work of conscious parenting more than worth it.