Even though it seems like divorce is happening all the time (over 50% of all marriages end in divorce and that number is even higher with celebrities and the entertainment business), there’s still the occasional surprise, like Angelina Jolie’s announcement yesterday which shocked the airwaves and “broke the internet”.
Some celebrity marriages seem more solid than others, but the break up of Brangelina reminds us all that we don’t actually know what is going on behind closed doors; the fans just see what’s happening in the limelight. We only get a glimpse of the trailer, not the whole script.
The “once upon a time” aspect of this Hollywood romance that everyone loved was the Jolie-Pitt modern Brady Bunch style family and how they seemed to make it work. But, now that it isn’t working, there are six young children whose worlds are going to change, no matter how glamorous it might be. At this point the most important thing for Brad and Angelina to do is to focus on what’s best for the children. And, based on their public statements it seems they are both working towards that.
At Divorce Doctor we see families from all walks of life that are dealing with similar situations as the Jolie-Pitt family. Here are four ways that we encourage our families to experience a Better Divorce and how to focus on their children for Better Parenting through the difficult time of divorce:
In any relationship communication is important. But in a situation of divorce, communication is pivotal if you are to re-define what your new “family” is to become. It’s not just about the communication between the parents, it’s also about communication with the kids. Give your children an honest —but kid-friendly— explanation when they ask questions about the divorce. Younger children will need less details, while the older kids might need more. Let them know about changes in their living environment, school, activities, etc. But don’t overwhelm them with too many details. Assure them that you will deal with the current changes together. And don’t forget to tell them that you love them and that even though you are getting divorced, you are not divorcing them.
- Validate Emotions:
With the children’s ages ranging from 7-14, there are a lot of different stages of development under one roof at the Jolie-Pitt house. Accordingly, the children will understand divorce differently and experience different emotions. It’s important to validate all the emotions your children are experiencing about the divorce, and encourage them to express them in healthy ways. It’s appropriate to have feelings of anger, frustration, fear, confusion, and even excitement. Emotions can be projected in all directions during the confusion of separation and divorce; parents should be ready to accept and acknowledge a full spectrum of feelings.
- Maintain Routines:
We are creatures of habit for a reason. Children thrive with routine and it’s more important than ever to maintain day-to-day rhythms when change is at hand. Anxiety develops when life is unpredictable; kids like to know the basic plan from one day to the next. When parents are divorcing, children’s imaginations can overwhelm them with all of the unknown changes in their future, but daily routine provides a reliable structure that assures them that their world is still intact in lots of predictable ways. When one parent moves to a new residence, it’s important that routines are maintained. If that’s impossible, invite the child(ren) to be a part of creating a new routine. It can be a collaborative process that feels like an art project if drawing some visual aids will be helpful for everyone.
- Create Togetherness:
Keeping the family together even when it’s falling apart can be extremely difficult for adults who are separating but it is incredibly important to demonstrate a united front for the children. Time together should happen however and whenever possible, parents should strive to have family time with all members of the unit. It’s important to demonstrate that a divorce is about dissolving a marriage, not about dissolving the family. Making the effort to be together as a “family” for outings, school events, birthdays, and holiday celebrations will show the children that you mean it and that they mean the most to you.