Hey healthy mamas!
This is part 2 of a 3-part series on hard truths about your high-conflict divorce. In part 1, I talked about post-separation abuse. Today, I will be talking about co-parenting.
On the last episode, I shared a bit about radical acceptance and how it is a crucial step in your ability to survive your high-conflict divorce and co-parent with your high-conflict for many years to come.
If you haven’t had the chance to listen to that episode, I recommend going back and doing that. Here is the link.
To recap, radical acceptance is accepting your reality as it is right now.
It’s not condoning your high-conflict co-parent’s behaviour. It’s not agreeing with the situation as it is and it’s not becoming complacent with the stage you’re at.
It’s simply stopping the fight against reality and accepting it for what it is.
Once you’re in this place, the fog in your brain will start to clear and you’ll be able to start logically and strategically navigating your high-conflict divorce.
You’ll also start to look at co-parenting in a new light. Sometimes we stay stuck in wishful thinking for too long and it prevents us from doing the things that our kids need most in the reality you and they are living in.
So, let’s dive in.
Hard truth #1: You cannot rescue your kids.
Your kids’ parents are your kids’ parents.
In most cases, parenting time is shared. And what happens at your co-parent’s house is up to them.
Now, most people eventually can accept some of the differences like in bedtime routines, food choices, device usage, the movies and tv shows they watch, all the day-to-day stuff.
But, unfortunately, it goes far beyond that. Accepting the differences in the day-to-day stuff is the easy part.
But what if their other household is toxic?
What if there’s constant yelling, fighting and swearing?
What if boundaries aren’t respected and people call each other names?
What if the kids don’t feel like they can be themselves over there? What if they walk on eggshells the whole time?
This is where it gets tricky. But the hard truth remains the same – you still can’t rescue them.
There is good news though. Rescuing them isn’t the only option. I get it, our instinct is to protect them from all the hard stuff in life, but we can’t. So, what can we do? If we aren’t rescuing and protecting them, what are we doing?
We’re preparing them.
We prepare them by teaching them how to feel confident and what to do if they’re faced with uncomfortable situations.
We prepare them by teaching them how to be aware of possible dangers without living in fear.
We prepare them by showing them just how capable they really are and teaching them the tools they need to navigate both homes.
Hard truth #2: Your kids will internalize your mood and take it personally, so choose wisely.
If you’re stressed, anxious, grumpy, irritable… your kids will internalize that and blame themselves.
Mom is grumpy, so I must be bad.
Dad is stressed, so I must be misbehaving.
The good news it goes the other way as well.
Mom is in a good mood, so I’m a good kid!
Dad is smiling, so I must be behaving!
A high-conflict divorce is extremely taxing on your physical and mental health, not to mention your bank account, your job, your other relationships… basically every facet of your life.
So the cornerstone of everything you do has to be your health. Looking after yourself will make being in a good mood, playful, energetic, regulated possible.
And when you’re smiling, your kids are smiling. Their developing brains internalize that and it feeds their confidence, self-esteem, self-worth and sends them the signals that they are unconditionally loved.
And remember, unconditional love is not something they get from a high-conflict parent.
So, the question remains is: how do you smile more?
Well, I think the answer is simple, although not easy: you look after yourself first.
– daily activity: walks, yoga, strength training, spin classes, dance lessons, whatever works for you
– a healthy diet loaded with fiber, lean proteins and whole foods
– at least 7 hours of sleep/night
– lots of water
– reduction (or elimination) of alcohol
– anything else that speaks to you in terms of your physical health – maybe it’s seeing a physiotherapist for that injury you’re ignoring
– counselling – find a trauma-informed therapist who understands what you’re going through and start seeing them on a regular basis
– a daily mindfulness practice, like meditation
– regular journalling, especially when you’re triggered
– consider what media, tv and movies you’re exposing yourself to. There are lots of ‘good’ shows out there, but they might not be for you if you’re triggered by them.
I know I’m very selective of what I am willing to watch on tv. It means I often don’t watch the really popular tv shows and movies but I have learned to really not care.
If I turn off the tv in tears or super anxious or triggered, then I am not serving my mental or physical health especially if this is right before bed and now I can’t sleep.
So it’s time to figure out what your body needs to recharge, be regulated and healthy all around so you can show up in the way your kids need.
Hard truth #3: Everything centres around your calm.
This may not seem like a hard truth, but wait until you try to put it into practice.
Your ability to be calm is absolutely crucial to getting through this divorce and be the safe parent your kids need and deserve.
You may have heard this L.R. Knost quote before:
When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.
Share your calm.
Sharing your calm comes in many forms. Calm bodies, calm minds, calm relationships, calm breath, calm nerves.
Your job is to be the opposite of your toxic co-parent. Remember, they thrive in chaos. They are who they are and your kids are with them however much of the time.
And although it’s hard to accept the challenges that your kids face when they’re around their other parent, you get to choose how to be a parent to them the rest of the time.
You get to show them what healthy relationships look like.
You get to show them what healthy food choices are.
You get to show them how to calm their bodies and their minds when they feel dysregulated.
You get to teach them how to set and maintain boundaries, even when others don’t respect them.
You get to move your body with them to show them how good they feel afterward.
There will come a time when they make all of these choices themselves. And ultimately, they will move towards calm over chaos.
You don’t have to change the chaos in their lives. All you have to do is show them where the calm is and your kiddos will do the rest.
I hope you enjoyed this episode. Join me next week when I do part 3 of this hard truths series on acceptance and healing.
Prepare your kids to tackle the challenges in their lives, smile more by looking after yourself first and share your calm because healthy moms raise healthy kids.