I was recently interviewed by an online magazine whose readers posed the following questions. These are real-life scenarios and they raise complex and emotive issues. It is a challenge to provide a bitesize response, as so much depends on the personal circumstances. Typically, in coaching, we explore the whole scenario and I help clients to come up with the best solution unique to themselves and their situation. Working with a coach gives you the confidence that the decisions you make and the actions you take are the right ones for you and your family. So, my answers reflect my thoughts rather than hard and fast solutions.
My husband and I have 6 children (aged 14-32). We are getting divorced and my biggest concern is how/when we tell the children?
As parents, telling our children that we plan to divorce is an incredibly difficult and painful thing to do. If you can do this at a time when you are all together and preferably face to face, that will help.
Typically, children and in particular, dependent children, need security and information.
Security; they need to understand that they are still loved by both parents and that none of this is their fault. For adult offspring, it may be about reassuring them that they are not expected to take sides or get involved in any way.
Information: they need to know what changes for them, where they will live, where parents will live, how will they see both parents and so on.
Finally, they need to know that you are OK and if you’re not (it’s understandable to be upset), that you will be.
How do I set aside my negative feelings for my ex when dealing with childcare arrangements?
This is a very common challenge and of course, it is one that is so very important to get right.
The solution is actually quite simple; you need to make it about your children and what is best for them. It actually doesn’t matter what you and your ex think of each other. Typically, children want to spend time with both parents and putting that desire front and centre whilst arranging child contact, should help you to manage the animosity.
That doesn’t make it any easier for you but at least you will know that you are doing the best for your children.
I’m finding it really difficult sending my kids to their dad’s when I know his new girlfriend is likely to be there too. How do I approach this subject with him without it becoming another argument?
I really feel for you. This is a very painful and difficult dilemma.
I suppose it depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you are attempting to prevent your children from seeing the new partner, then in the absence of a good reason, you are unlikely to be successful. It is very difficult but it might serve you better to find a way to get yourself comfortable with the situation rather than trying to change it. Remember that your children only have one mum and they will not forget that.
If on the other hand, you are just trying to share how you are feeling with your ex and seeking some reassurance, then consider starting the conversation in that vein. For example, “Do you mind if I share my concerns with you?” or “I wonder if you can help me as I’m struggling with this?” It may be counterintuitive but expressing vulnerability could help your message land better with your ex and prevent an argument.
Would a possible compromise be a well thought out approach to introducing your children to your ex’s new partner, giving you the confidence that they are OK?
I want to change my surname back to my maiden name. Is this a good idea or will it cause admin problems?
This is largely a personal decision. For some women, it is an important part of reclaiming their identity and moving forward. For others, having the same name as their children is important and so, they retain their married name (possibly changing it later on). There is no right or wrong, simply do what suits you best.
I feel that my ex-partner is manipulating the children by telling them negative things about me that aren’t true. How should I manage this?
The important word in this question is “feel”. Emotions run high during a divorce and we can be hypersensitive to what is being said and done by the ex-partner. So firstly, ask yourself is this really happening and is it damaging or is it noise?
If it’s noise, that is, comments that are frustrating and annoying but ultimately not important, then you can calmly correct the situation directly with your children without disagreeing with your ex. So, for example, you could say “How strange that you heard that, my understanding is xxx” or “Do you think that this is true, I think this xxxx”. Your children will appreciate the fact that you are taking the higher ground and that you are correcting misinformation.
If your ex is waging a damaging campaign, then you may have a case of parent alienation. This is more worrying and not something that you or your children should have to put up with. I would start by discussing it with your ex and asking him/her to desist. If this does not work you may need to take legal advice and pursue a more active path.
Do I tell my teenage children the real reason we split (infidelity)?
Coaches love to answer questions with a question and so, I would ask you what you think would be achieved by sharing this information?
Often, the pain of infidelity clouds our judgement and we want to lash out and make sure that everybody understands how badly the other person has behaved.
It may be that a certain level of transparency is really important to your children, if they have an inkling about the infidelity anyway, they may want it confirmed and in the absence of the information, they may fill the vacuum with theories of their own that are even worse than reality.
On the other hand, especially with teenage children, this knowledge could cause them extra pain, as they struggle to understand why one parent would do this and hurt the other parent so much.
I apologise for the lack of clarity but it really depends on your children and your situation. My best advice is to put yourself in their shoes and try to understand what they need to know.
Any tips on how to shift the mindset to separation when your ex doesn’t want a divorce and wants to still pop over daily.
It’s not uncommon for one party to be reluctant to separate or divorce. It could be, that your ex still harbours hope of reconciliation and as such, wants to keep the communication channels open and contact frequent.
Assuming you are certain that you want the divorce, you need to make sure you are not sending your ex, mixed messages. Sometimes, in our attempts to be gentle and express empathy, we send the signal that there is still life in the relationship. Be clear that you want a divorce and that you are not considering repairing the relationship.
You could also try repetitive reinforcement. This is where you repeat your message whenever the opportunity arises. If your ex continually hears you mention divorce, eventually it becomes part of the narrative and will feel more natural and accepted.
Advice on how to give a clearer kind request for him to not use the door key to let himself in (despite numerous requests already) without recourse to law. He has his space that I don’t have a key to. We are trying to co-parent, but I feel the need for boundaries, he takes it as it comes and as it suits him. My requests are falling upon deaf ears.
Quite a challenge! You don’t mention where you are on the journey but I’m going to assume that you are still in the process of getting divorced and that you are living in the family home. If your ex owns part of the house, then as I’m sure you know, there is no legal way of preventing their access unless there is a safeguarding concern.
Is it possible that your ex doesn’t realise how this behaviour affects you? Maybe you could have a frank conversation where you let them know how it makes you feel and that the continual disregard of your requests could damage the co-parenting relationship?
If it continues, you could adapt the co-parenting arrangement so that there is no need for your ex to enter the house. Change handover location for example.
We both keep stalling on filling out the financial forms, any tips on shifting mindset towards getting those done? Tbh it terrifies me and I ask myself why; I just think it’s because I haven’t managed money since before the kids 14 years ago and also worry it will cause friction.
When we have to fill out the financial forms, we are presented with the stark reality of divorce. It is all there in black and white; what we might lose, how life will have to change and often, how much one party is reliant on the other. It is understandably terrifying.
Having a good knowledge of the finances however, is important and you could think about it as understanding what you will have to start your exciting new life with? The stress of the unknown is usually much worse than the reality of the situation too.
I hope sharing these questions and answers has been helpful. The reality is that every situation has its own idiosyncrasies, some of the above may resonate with you and some may not. If you want to explore your unique situation please do consider booking some one-to-one coaching to help you discover your own solutions.