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Divorce and Parenting

Pawns in the game

Vinita Panjabi recalls, "When Sanjay and I decided to get a divorce, I think we fought the most about who would keep the children. I remember being so angry and hurt that I wanted to hit back in any way possible. I just wanted to leave and take my children with me so that I could forget that I had ever been married to him."

Divorce is usually a bitter and acrimonious process. Desperate to get out of a bad marriage and to hurt each other as much as possible, couples become blind to the needs of their children. Children often become pawns in the game of one-upmanship that often accompanies divorce proceedings. Divorce spells the end of a couple's relationship as husband and wife. However, it does not mean that they are divorced from their children. That's one relationship that continues "till death do you part." Even after you are divorced, you and your spouse will play an important role in your children's lives, unless one of you totally gives up the responsibility of being a parent. 

The trauma of divorce

How many times have you heard people say that they stayed together because of the children? While divorce is no piece of cake for the parents, it can be truly traumatic for the children. Children are probably the most affected by a divorce, but this is a matter in which they have no say. Everything is in a state of flux and there is no security or stability in their lives. 

Children always feel that divorce is something that happens to other people and that their parents will be together forever. In a divorce, children find themselves torn between their parents. Occasionally, they are made to choose who they would prefer to live with and one can only imagine what a heart-wrenching decision that must be. Overnight one parent becomes a visitor in their lives. They often hear one parent badmouthing the other. They're not sure which parent is the 'good guy' and which the bad. For children who see everything in black and white, the shades of grey associated with a divorce are beyond their comprehension. Lack of understanding about the reason for this catastrophe coupled with evasive explanations from their parents leave them wondering if perhaps they were to blame. They will always feel that they are part of an incomplete family and are missing out on something. It's even more bewildering if one parent remarries. Now they have to cope with adjusting to accepting a complete stranger as their 'mother' or 'father'. No wonder children wish their parents would stay together no matter how bad things are. 

Shared parenting

Divorce is an ugly word. And when children are involved it's not just ugly, it's messy. Most people decide to get a divorce after much deliberation and because they see no other way out. However, a divorce is rarely as clean a break as they expect. If a couple has children, there is no way that they will be absolutely free of each other, even after a divorce. 

For the sake of the children, you and your spouse should try not to take an adversarial approach. Try to sit across the table from each other and make decisions regarding your lives and your children's lives keeping everyone's best interests in mind. 

Even if you're not married to each other any more, you should try to share the parenting. You should aim to develop a parenting plan that will ensure that the children will be able to spend sufficient time with both parents, to benefit from their love, affection, influence, support, and ideas. Whatever decisions you take should disrupt the children's lives as little as possible. Life should go on as before as far as possible. Your anger and resentment should take a backseat when it comes to making financial arrangements. There is no point cutting off your spouse's money supply if it is going to affect your children as well. Remember that they are not to blame. It would be ideal if both spouses would agree that all major decisions regarding the children should be taken jointly. The fact is that a divorce is as acrimonious as the people involved make it. If you choose to be amicable, it will just make it that much easier for you and your children to cope with the divorce and its aftermath. 

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