Michael Douglas in People magazine.
I'm more and more prone to tell kids just about everything. There's been a whole school of thought about things you should not tell children – if there's a problem in a relationship, [people say], 'Let's not let the kids know.' Kids know. They know everything. I would err on the side of pretty much sharing everything. They can digest it, you know? It's life.
Most parents involved in a divorce have been counseled not to say anything negative about the other parent. And this one sounds easy, but is actually very hard to achieve, because it is not just the outright barbs that are negative, but also passive statements that we all occasionally utter.
Things like “well, you know how your father / mother is …”. Even an eye-roll or raised eyebrow when a child talks about something the other parent has done (or not done) can be damaging.
And so we cannot just pay lip-service to our feelings about the other parent, we must really learn how to let go of our anger towards the other spouse.
This does not mean condoning unacceptable behavior from our ex-spouse, but it does mean finding a way to speak of it to the spouse with a measure of calm. You don’t have to be friends with your ex; you just have to respect them.
Saying No To Power Struggles
We must also avoid using the children as part of a power struggle. For instance, if they would prefer to have both mom and dad at the next soccer game, even though it may be visiting time for one parent and not the other, then put aside your differences for her sake.
Let your child’s emotions and the best interests of the child be your guide here.
So we know that we need to work on our anger, but how do we do it? Here is one thing that might help:
(Allow 20 minutes):
- Sit in a quiet room in a comfortable position.
- Take a few deep breaths and gradually allow your breath to return to a normal pace.
- On each breath in, imagine light, warmth, and love filling you, spreading from your heart all the way into fingertips and toes and extending out through the top of your head.
- Take a moment before breathing out, allowing the light to warm you and fill you.
- Then, when you breathe out, imagine sending this warm light to the other parent. Let it wash over them, with no judgment or thought.
This may take time, but each time an uncomfortable thought comes, let it go, gently and without judgment. Just bring your mind back to the sense of light and warmth.
Do this for as long as is comfortable, perhaps 10 to 15 minutes. Sit quietly afterwards and see if anything has shifted in your body or emotional state.