Dealing With Unwanted Parenting Advice During Your Divorce
If you’re going through a divorce or even on the brink of one, chances are you’ve heard this age-old advice at least once. Almost everyone, regardless of marital status, whether or not they’ve experienced divorce—even if they don’t have kids—finds it necessary to remind divorcing parents of this all the time.
We’re not quite sure why, either. It’s one of the most basic, no-brainer ideas in the world. In our experience, there’s a slim chance that anyone benefits from hearing this tip, save a few outliers. For the parents that do need reminding, the advice typically goes in one ear and out the other. No changes, no morphing into an empathetic parent who thinks of the well-being of their kids over themselves.
Parents, the most common phrase you’ll hear during your divorce, if you haven’t heard it yet, is, “As long as you put your kids first, everything will work out.”
It’s not that this advice is wrong. On the contrary, it’s smart, insightful and highly recommended. The problem isn’t with the intent of the advice, it’s that “put your children first and everything will be fine” is so overused that it’s become almost meaningless.
It’s similar to telling your child “good job!” for every praiseworthy action. Within a short time, the phrase becomes meaningless. What does “good job” mean, anyway? It’s generic, devoid of creativity and lacks any description as to why or how. So too is the phrase, “put your children first.”
As one of the top family law firms in Rhode Island, we’ve worked with hundreds of divorcing parents. In our experience, the majority of parents do everything possible to put their children first. We’re willing to bet you’re the same.
Still, unless you take a vow of silence during your divorce, refuse to leave the house or quit communicating with the outside world, you will be told to put your children first. Similar to how you can’t change your soon-to-be-ex into the partner you hoped they would be, you also can’t stop people from saying what they desperately want to tell you.
All hope is not lost, though. The following strategies are helpful ways to handle the “put your kids first” comment, or any variation of it, without losing your cool.
Often, just knowing something in advance is a gift. It gives you an opportunity to think about a thoughtful response versus having a knee-jerk reaction. When things are tense, it can be challenging to respond in a logical, rational manner. If you prepare for the comment in advance, you can avoid seeming rude or standoffish.
Divorce is a time where you need friends, family and a support network. While it seems counterintuitive that you should have to watch what you say and how you say it, it’s for your own wellbeing that you avoid any unnecessary conflict. After all, you have enough on your plate. By simply listening and nodding or a having a quick one-word response such as, “Absolutely.” you can end the conversation relatively quickly and easily.
The point isn’t to prove yourself a good parent by detailing what you’re doing to help your kids adjust. It’s to let the person say what they’re going to say and exit the conversation without getting emotional, defensive or annoyed.
Understand the reason “Put your kids first, everything else will be fine” is said so frequently.
Try to think of a friend or family member who hasn’t been touched by divorce. Challenging, right? Nearly everyone has been touched by some aspect of divorce. The fact that divorce is so common makes it hard for anyone to have an unbiased view of it.
Remember, the comment isn’t a knock on your parenting. In fact, it’s probably not even about you! Whether the person saying it went through a divorce or has some other reason for doling out the advice, the point is, they’re saying it for them. The more you realize that the comment isn’t personal, it’s not an accusation that you’re doing something wrong, the easier it’ll be to take the comment in stride.
Moreover, most people understand the emotional turmoil of divorce. That even if you initiated the divorce, it’s still an incredibly painful process. If they themselves are divorced parents, they know how challenging it is to see kids sad, confused or angry. They might even want to save you from making some of the mistakes they made in their divorce. Whatever the case is, assume the best.
If there’s one truth about divorce, aside from the fact that you’ll hear “put your kids first and everything will be fine,” it's that everyone will have something to say. You’ll hear lots of things from lots of people, most of it better left unsaid. While you can’t stop people from offering advice, you can control your thoughts, actions and how much you let the comments affect you.
At Kirshenbaum Law Associates, we have the kind of advice that will help you move forward. Our expertise in family law and history of obtaining desirable results for our clients, many who are Rhode Island parents, will help you through this incredibly challenging time.
For immediate assistance or to schedule a confidential, complimentary consultation, contact Kirshenbaum Law Associates at 401-467-5300.