“Maybe it’s not always about trying to fix something that’s broken.
Maybe it’s about starting over and creating something better.” –Unknown
The very nature of divorce-regardless the cause, is painful and devastating beyond description. There simply is no getting around that fact. Adults are barely able to survive this emotional ordeal as perennial divorce tales of friends and family duly illustrate. Throw children into this mix-and you truly become the keeper of the dynamite-with the ability to nurture or destroy their spiritual and emotional future. In my humble opinion, there is no greater responsibility that divorcing parents have than the selfless stewardship of their children’s emotional well-being. In my opinion, there are no “yeah, but….” excuses worthy of consideration. In my opinion, either parent poisoning the emotional and spiritual well that their children will drink from post-divorce, is among the most egregious parental sins imaginable. Also, the most avoidable.
I’m no psychologist but I am a divorced man with kids and those kids were small, impressionable, and extremely fragile and vulnerable when that day came. Just like that, their world changed forever and one of the most important figures in their life-in any child’s life-was gone. Suddenly, there was an emptiness in their life that was unimaginable. Just as suddenly, my ex-wife and I had the awesome responsibility of building a bridge that would safely transport our children to a new world. A world that was not better or worse, just different. A world that we would now build for them that would replace the one they’d known. These simple rules guided our efforts and spared our children as much pain and heartache as was possible and allowed them the freedom to love unconditionally and to trust without exception.
Rule #1—”It’s Not About YOU!”
This is the first sentence of Rick Warren’s mega-best seller book, “The Purpose Driven Life” and really delivers the most powerful tool to all of us as to how to have a happy and meaningful life, but it is even more applicable to how we approach our children post-divorce. Can we all agree that the most miserable SOBs on the planet are the selfish, the venal, the egotistic, and the self-serving? What post-divorce children need is our unwavering commitment and devotion to their well-being. This simply mandates a jettisoning of our own needs and interests for as long as is necessary. It’s called sacrificing to a greater good-the safe passage of our children through this incredibly difficult journey. It’s harsh and it’s tougher in practice—but every conceivable need you have-is now secondary and subordinate to those of your kids. There is no compromise or half measures that are worthy or effective. You have to go “all in.” Remember-it’s not about you..and nothing you give up will ever compare to what you’ll gain.
Rule #2—”Kids Need Superheroes”
From the second your child is born, YOU are the most important thing in their life and you will be…until you’re not. We all know that our kids will let us know when it’s time to retire our Super-Hero capes. Until that time-the only Super Hero they know is mom and dad. I put my ex-wife on a pedestal for my children and she did the same for me. Our kids never suffered the doubts and heartaches that accompany dueling insults and criticisms emanating from angry and bitter parents. We simply refused to go there-choosing instead to elevate one another in the eyes of our kids. Choosing instead to let them go to sleep at night with a confident smile and a heart full of love-not sadness and despair or doubt. Keep that cape flying for as long as you can.
Rule #3—”Love Is Life’s Most Powerful Cure”
I interviewed the legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden and he gave me the single best piece of advice I have ever received. It was hardly unique and cliché to the point of being embarrassingly simplistic. He said to me, “Steve-you can do every single thing right, but if your life has a deficiency of love-chances are you will struggle with despair and heartache. You can also do every single thing wrong, but if your life has an abundance of love-things will likely turn out okay.” John Wooden was right. Above all else, give them more love than they need.
I talk often about the choice’s we make in life and how in sum, those choices greatly determine our life’s outcome. Divorce adds a whole new dimension to those choices because the emotional and spiritual survival of our children hangs in the balance. All of us are capable of mind-numbing stupidity and onerous and costly life choices. God gives us one opportunity to nurture to blossom the beautiful spiritual potential of our children. As with any delicate flower, it takes much love and care to ensure its survival and growth and only a second’s carelessness to destroy it forever. We all have it within us to do either. We all have the ability and the inherent parental love and devotion to be good shepherds. I have no explanation as to why so many parents choose a “scorched earth” approach to divorce that does nothing to assuage their own grief but often cripples their children with broken hearts. I would hope only that more divorcing parents would seek to view the future through the beautiful and innocent eyes of their children…for as long as it takes.
“It is easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken adults. ”