Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense during the 1960s, was the subject of a documentary film called The Fog of War. The title derives from the military concept of the “fog of war” depicting the difficulty of making decisions in the midst of conflict. The same challenge happens to divorcing couples. The ‘fog of war’ can affect decision making leading to an escalation of conflict and drive them into an adversarial process and expensive litigation.
Well intentioned parents are susceptible to the “trickle down myth”, the idea that as long as the parents are happy with the post-divorce outcomes, the children will be happy after the divorce, too. Relying on this myth, parents interviewed shortly after divorce often conclude they put the kids’ interests first. These same parents, asked the same question 10 years later say, in retrospect, they put their own interests ahead of the kids and the outcomes for the kids were not as they’d hoped. [The Unexpected legacy of Divorce, the 25-year Landmark study by Wallerstein Lewis and Blakeslee].
It does not have to be one or the other – kid’s interests vs parent’s interests – both are important. At Family Peacemaker, we help couples stay focused on their children’s interests, as well as their own, so they can have a child-centered divorce.
Why Have a Child-Centered Divorce?
As Haim Ginott, a world-renowned child psychologist, once said, “Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them leaves an impression.”
Children are caught in the middle of the conflict during divorce. They hear their parents arguing. Their home is filled with anger and tension. They may hear doors slam and can feel the deep sadness, anger, and hostility around them. They hear parents and extended family when they speak poorly of one or the other parent. They feel their loyalties torn. In all these and more ways they are drawn into and made part of the conflict. This is not emotionally healthy.
TIP: During divorce, difficult conversations need to happen, of course. Have them outside the home. Schedule time to go to the park or a coffee shop. And cool down before going back to the house.
To make matters worse, children have no control of what is going to happen. They are stakeholders of the highest order but have no decision-making power.
Consider how the children have previously had their needs met. First, as parents, you have always anticipated and provided for their basic needs. When they have ‘wants’ or when something is not working for them, they come to their parents to be heard and to have their parents decide how to resolve the matter. Even if the answer is “No”, they trust you and feel ‘heard’. That’s “Normal”.
The most important thing parents can do to address both needs, the need to keep the children’s best interests balanced with their own and the need to help the children to be heard as a stakeholder in the divorce.
TIP: Choose a process which supports and promotes a return to “Normal” during the divorce. A Child-Centered Divorce process.
A Collaborative Divorce is a Child-Centered Divorce
As difficult as it is to raise well-adjusted kids through the everyday challenges of life, divorce is different.
A Collaborative Divorce brings in experienced professionals who help clear the ‘fog’, guide parents to maintain their best critical thinking and values throughout the process and meet the children’s need to be heard and restore a sense of “Normal”.
The children have their own advocate in the process, a divorce professional who gives them a voice without putting them in the middle and speaks to the parents about how to best navigate the divorce on their behalf. The parents have a divorce coach who helps educate the parents on how to look out for their own welfare while balancing that of the children and helps them to turn difficult conversations into productive solutions. Parents get the legal and financial education and support needed, as well.
A collaborative divorce is not adversarial. It uses the training and background of professionals to lower conflict from the outset and help clients lift the ‘fog of war’ and balance the best interest of the children.
We are experts in Child-Centered Divorce. For more information, contact us at Family Peacemaker to schedule a one-hour free consultation.