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Mangus's avatar

What do you wish your divorced parents had done differently?

Asked by Mangus (947points) October 22nd, 2007

If you grew up in more than one house, with separated parents, how do you wish things (parenting time, geographical proximity, communication) had been done differently? Or, conversely, what do you look back on as the best features of the separated arrangements?

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17 Answers

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

Definitely to BE SURE that the kids know it is NOT their fault the divorce is happening, and that they are in therapy no matter what. They may say they don’t want to talk to anyone about it, but they probably do really need to.

susanc's avatar

Their other parent is their other most important person in life. If the other parent is dangerous, there should be court intervention to protect them from him or her. Otherwise, don’t badmouth your ex. To ask the kids to take sides with you against their other parent puts them in an impossible position. It also turns you into the villain. You need the leverage conferred on you by your fairness and reliability.

Adina1968's avatar

I wish that my parents would not have fought with each other or bad mouthed each other in front of me and my sister. Kids just don’t need to experience that…

hossman's avatar

Great question and answers. As a happily married divorce attorney (that’s pretty rare, most of the divorce attorneys I know are divorced) whose parents at times looked like they might divorce but stayed together (thus I have never myself experienced divorce directly) I am very curious regarding the effects of divorce on children.

Is there anybody out there who believes their parents should have stayed together and not divorced?

Vincentt's avatar

Same as Adina1968 – it’s really no fun when your parents badmouth eachother.

hossman – no, divorce was probably best, I think them staying together would have been terrible, especially while growing up, when you start to notice they really don’t get along. Also, it would have been terrible to see my self or one of my brothers or sister take advantage of the fact that they don’t get along well (I’ve seen my sister play my parents out against eachother already, that would have been even worse had they still been together).
On the other hand, a few years after the divorce, my mother had another friend who was really terrible, but she couldn’t send him away. He really was a nightmare with a lot of psychological problems and who used the divorce of my parents to try and promote himself. Luckily, my mother managed to send him away last year, after which half his familiy also refused contact with him, and I suppose the only one he can talk with now is his mother, which he is manipulating like hell so that she now doesn’t want to see us anymore too, even though she always really liked us.

Also, during the period in between when my parents had announced they would be divorcing and the actual divorce, my dad would always get sentimental (obviously) but then he sort of expected us to cry too… However, I was too young to really “feel” the loss, and at once deliberately delayed getting home because I knew only my father was there and he would want me to feel sorry again.

Mangus's avatar

Hi all,

Thanks for the answers. The not fighting or bad-mouthing etc. seem to be no-brainers to me and my ex. In my situation, there is a disagreement over what parenting time arrangement is best, with my ex keeping me at about 30% and me wanting a more even split of time. I tend to agonize and feel guilty over this deficiency, and wonder whether I shouldn’t somehow be fighting harder. The imbalance is mostly her doing, but there have also been times where I might have had more time, but didn’t take it because of other work/life factors. She also moved about an hour away, so most scenarios with increased time involve me leaving my community and support behind to be closer to the kids.

I yearn for a crystal ball, to see what effect all these things will have on my children, and what arrangement will help them the most.

Vincentt's avatar

As for the imbalance of time – well, it’s not like all time I am with my mother (who has us about 10 of 14 days) is spent together with her. The fact that you spend less time might even make that time more intense and worthwhile.

On the other hand, it seems terrible to me that she moved about an hour away, which makes it much more difficult to spend time with your kids, and I think I’d hate it had my mother done that.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

@mangus: that really depends on many factors, such as how old your children are, how well you get along with your ex, etc. If your children are old enough, it may help to ask them how they want it to work and let them decide. You also have to be flexible for a while afterwards for if/when they change their minds about the living arrangements.

marianamint's avatar

My mom did pretty well. My dad had no clue how to be a dad. 34 years and 2 other marriages later he is still holding a grudge towards my mother and I’ve had to pay for it.
I wish he had taken the resposibility that comes with being a parent regardless of the marriage. He never took care of me financially or emotionally. Therapy would had been a good route. I also agree with Adina1968.

Mangus's avatar

@omfgTALIjustIMDu: I think my kids are a bit too young (6 and 8)to be deciding about time at the respective homes , though that will come soon. Flexibility is certainly in order, and I understand that when they are making the decisions about it, it becomes a whole different thing. And, obviously, there are many factors. I’m certainly not going to make decisions based on Fluther responses to a short question. :) But I really like hearing from kids who have perspective looking back. Was it the amount of time? The “quality” time? The regularity of time? etc.

Thanks for your candor, folks. And, I’m with you, marianamint, therapy rocks.

I think the core of my fear is that no matter what I do (barring unhealthy and disfunctional decisions) I haven’t been able to make an even split of time happen. And I fear my kids will grow to interpret the imbalance of time as a sign that I don’t love them as much as I do.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

@mangus: it seems you’ve done your homework in terms of thinking through everything and realizing there will be problems in the future but you’re doing well in coming up with possibilities to eliminate the worst outcomes. It can be extremely helpful for you to see a therapist who specializes in divorce to help guide you in your decision-making.

Poser's avatar

I think the worst thing for me was my stepmother. She was a psychopath who viewed my brother and I as competition. My dad never did anything to keep her in check, so we got to hear her screaming to my dad about what an awful b**ch my mother was, and other such nonsense. He never stood up for us.

When we visited (that’s the key word—she made it clear that it wasn’t our home), we were mostly just an inconvenience. We only got to see our dad twice a year, even though he was only six hours away.

Just be very careful who you let into your children’s lives. Make sure they know they can count on you for protection. And don’t ever, ever, ever allow anyone to speak badly (no matter how banal it might seem) about their mother. That includes yourself.

marianamint's avatar

Wow, it is amazing how all the stories ring a bell!
It is kinda comforting to hear it wasn’t just my family that managed things wrong! In a way, this has felt like a little group therapy!
My mom, who is a psychologist, says: “We are all victims of victims”. People screw up and that affects their kids lives, and so on and so on. I think that people deal the way they can, with all their limitations. But I really think hearing all these stories could make you more aware when it comes to dealing with your children.
Good luck!

joli's avatar

In the beginning the hardest part for me was my Father being uncomfortable with the process and not visiting often because he disliked dealing with emotion; seeing how sad my brother and I were over the disolution of the family unit. The 2nd hardest part was the decision to section up the family having my two older sisters live with my Father, and my brother and I living with our Mother. The third hardest part was the ridiculous way they handled visitation as I was growing up, (my being the youngest child), by putting me on a greyhound bus every other weekend, 3 hours there and three hours back, to visit the parent I wasn’t currently living with. This kept me from spending my weekends playing with my friends, taking classes to learn things, etc, etc. How stupid to place that burden on me, instead of them! I lived through one of the most disruptive growing up experiences you can imagine! All due to divorce. The bottom line for me is why was I such a low priority in their lives? Children pay more attention than you might think. Remember you are teaching them how to behave toward family. Why would anyone place more interest in a place or a job or another person than your child? I would examine my sense of responsibility and act accordingly with respect for all parties, including myself.

joli's avatar

My own daughter’s Dad moved here and there as she grew up, but he always took the initiative to drive the distance to see her, take her out and spend time with her. We discovered during the break-up of our relationship that dividing her time in two wasn’t fair to her, so we worked out this plan. She lived with me, and he took her out to dinner every Wednesday night, then picked her up every other weekend to stay with him. This was her routine starting at age 2. She’s one of the most adjusted people I know today at age 23 years old, and we are equally her best friends. It wasn’t perfect, we all had disagreements, disgruntled feelings and fights, but we both reminded her of her importance to us on a daily basis, and I think that was a deciding factor in her development. You have to provide stability within the chaos!

macy's avatar

I certainly can’t put myself in your shoes, but I would have to seriously consider living closer and making a legal arrangement to prevent your ex from moving away again. Of course, you should work with her to make sure she is in agreement with that first. There really is no substitute for being there. You want to attend school functions, attend their practice or games, take them to their friends’ houses and have their friends come to your house. Obviously it is much more complicated than that, but you really can’t put a price on the time you spend with your children. If that time is high quality and positive, the more you have the better it will be for everyone.

stewit's avatar

I wish my parents spent less money on ‘things’ and more time together as a family. We were a middle-class family always searching for the ‘dream’, I guess? I love spending time with my children but the ‘dream’ gets in the way. Note to self, spend less money on things and more time with my family!

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