Five Eye-Opening Truths About Divorcing With Kids

There’s a lot you know about how to divorce with kids. Yet there are some realities that still may surprise you. Are you aware of these five eye-opening truths?


You know not to alienate the children from their other parent.

From the day this all began, you vowed to not withhold the children from your ex. And you’ve stuck to your word, fulfilling every scheduled visit and being careful not to not restrict access.

Yet you’re starting to see that access isn’t enough to maintain a parent/child bond and you’re worried for the kids as you see the distance growing between them and their other parent.

So you try to step in, to encourage the kids to connect and to compel your ex to put forth more effort into establishing a relationship. You beg, you implore, you question and you grow increasingly frustrated at the situation. You struggle to understand why they’re not prioritizing the kids and every time you see your kids disappointed, your heart breaks a little more.

And here’s the eye-opening truth –  

You can’t create, maintain or improve the children’s relationship with the other parent. All you can do is provide access and refrain from mudslinging. The rest of the work is up to them.

What you can do is to continue to be there for your children and reassure them that their parent’s behavior is not their fault or their responsibility. You can teach them empathy and help them understand that even adults struggle to manage things sometimes.

Your ex may step up and form a relationship with the kids sooner rather than later. They may keep their distance for a time, only to develop a meaningful bond with their adult children. Or, as much as it pains you, they may never connect with their children. Let go of the illusion of control over that outcome.


You know not to badmouth your ex in front of the kids.

Chapter 1 of How to Divorce With Kids is, “Don’t badmouth your ex in front of the kids.” Everyone knows it and most try to follow this guideline, setting aside their own feelings for the sake of the kids.

So you bite your tongue when little ears are listening and save your tirades for more private times. You carefully craft your responses to difficult questions to avoid implicating your ex.

And here’s the eye-opening truth –

You have to make an effort to not compromise your ex’s new partner in the minds of the kids. Which, in cases where this new partner entered the picture before you left, is a very difficult task to manage.

But it’s important. For you, this other person embodies all of the bitterness and sorrow you feel, becoming more of a monster and less of a person. Yet for your kids, this person is another (perhaps significant) adult in their lives, someone they have to negotiate a relationship with and perhaps even learn to accept as a future stepparent.

When you allow your feelings for your ex’s partner to show (even if they’re un-vocalized), it creates confusion and tension for your kids. On the one hand, they want to be loyal and supportive of you and on the other hand, they don’t want conflict with their other parent.

No, it’s not easy and it’s often not fair. But your kids are worth the effort. So strive to separate what the other partner represents to you from who they are to your kids.


You know not to place the blame on the kids.

Children have a tendency to internalize everything. So it’s common that when they learn of the impending divorce, they think that it must be due to their refusal to go to bed on time last week or the tantrum they threw in the check-out line at the grocery store. And you know to reassure them that they are not at fault, that these are adult problems between mommy and daddy and that both of their parents love them so very much.

And here’s the eye-opening truth –

One of the biggest struggles after divorce is the rediscovery of your purpose and when you’re a parent, that role and by extension, your children, fill that need nicely. Of course your kids are your biggest priority, but you have to be careful after divorce not to make them your only concern.

When the kids become your sole purpose for moving on and pushing through, you’re inadvertently putting all of the responsibility for your well-being on their tiny shoulders.

And that’s a huge burden for them to bear. Instead, focus on taking care of yourself while also looking out for them. Model for them what true independence and perseverance look like. In the end, that will serve them better than you existing only to fill their needs.


You know to be available to talk when the kids are ready.

You end the dreaded “We’re getting a divorce announcement with, “I’m here whenever you need to talk.” And you mean those words. You frequently check in with your children and you’re ready to drop everything and listen whenever they’re in the mood to open up.

And here’s the eye-opening truth –

Especially if your children are in or approaching double-digit ages, you may not be their preferred go-to when they are struggling with the divorce. It’s important for you to provide access to other safe adults for them to talk to and to let them know that it’s okay for them to open up.

It can be stressful to think about the details of your divorce from your child’s perspective being shared, but if you deliver the message that the topic is taboo, it breeds a sense of shame and secrecy in the kids.

It is more important that your children are able to talk through their fears and concerns with somebody than it is for that somebody to be you or for you to control what information is revealed.


You know that your divorce impacts the kids.

Children need a sense of security and stability and divorce threatens both. Inevitably, children are affected when their parents separate. 

And here’s the eye-opening truth –

When you focus too much on the strain and impact of the situation, you may be unintentionally promoting a sense of victimhood in your children. Too much emphasis on what happened emphasizes the lack of control the kids have over the situation and gives them the feeling that they are damaged. Perhaps permanently.

Instead, focus on building grit. Share stories of overcoming adversity. Model and vocalize the power of choice in any situation. Acknowledge the impact the divorce has had on them yet also refuse to allow them to be defined by that singular event.

Fortitude and a sense of power over their own well-being are two of the biggest gifts you can give your children. Don’t miss out on this opportunity.

Thank you for sharing!

9 thoughts on “Five Eye-Opening Truths About Divorcing With Kids

  1. The impact for adult children is also complex and just as damaging. I have two, a daughter and son, and being like night and day, they each responded differently but both were manipulated by their mom (neither was strong enough to say no) and each time I had to say no to their request(s). Bottom line is that one parent, or both, should make their children their ally nor use them as weapons in their real or made up battle with their former spouse.

  2. So, how did I do? I hope, well.

    On Thu, Apr 6, 2017 at 10:05 AM Lessons From the End of a Marriage wrote:

    > stilllearning2b posted: “There’s a lot you know about how to divorce with > kids. Yet there are some realities that still may surprise you. Are you > aware of these five eye-opening truths?” >

  3. Mary Lou – I'm still here and loving it! Nostalgia isn't my all-time favorite past time. I like to live in the present and look forward. When you reach a certain point in life it's good to look back and review this journey with new eyes ~ in a different place in time. I've arrived at a place in my life where the experiences I've had are coming together to form a collage of beauty and strength. A time where I can put a little more time into my love for water color painting and writing. Creating this website allows me to share some of the expressions of my gratitude and amazement of where this journey has taken me. It's my hope that it will encourage others to share their own story through written word and art.
    Mary Lou says:

    Wow, Lisa! I’m looking back. My sons are all grown. You just confirmed that I did GOOD!! 🙂 This is such a important post for parents.

  4. I really appreciate the acknowledgement that my kids’ relationship with their dad is not my responsibility, nor is it under my control. Many people (even friends of mine who intend to be supportive) make me feel judged and inadequate by implying that if kids don’t have a solid relationship with both of us it’s because “we” aren’t putting the kids first. I’ve done what I can, I’m open to the possibility he may step up in the future but right now he isn’t able and me trying to do it for him not only wasn’t helping, it was undermining my relationship with my kids. My ex-husband turned out to be a very different person than the one I thought I was married to and that goes for his parenting as well. Thank you for delivering your advice in a way that doesn’t make me feel like I’ve failed my children more than I already do.

  5. This is great advice, Lisa. I like how you organized this into the tip and then the ‘eye-opening’ truth. it’s very effective in getting the reality across. It’s so hard co-parenting never mind with one who doesn’t want to pull his weight. The last one about letting your children know it’s ok to talk about the divorce with other, safe adults is excellent. It’s really hard as the actual parent to listen to our children’s fears and issues with our divorce because we feel guilty.

    1. I don’t think there’s anything easy about divorcing with kids. I can only imagine how big the guilt and grief for what you wanted for your child are. I am in awe of all those who navigate it!

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