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Love Your Kids More Than You Hate Your Ex

co-parenting divorce ex kids first Dec 04, 2020

The most important two-word phrase in the entire Playbook — the one you hear at the end of each of our podcast episodes, and see sprinkled throughout the pages of this site — is "Kids First."

Everything we do here is for our kids. Everything, with regard to living a positive and productive life as a divorced dad, or divorced mom, is framed within the mindset of keeping our kids first.

What does that really mean, though? Kids first? Don't we always put our kids first?

Sure, probably. At least we all try to put our kids first. But when your ex called last week to say they were going to be an hour late to pick up the kids, how did you respond? Did you argue? Were you passive-aggressive? Did you slam your phone down after the call? Did you sigh obnoxiously loud?

We don't realize how much our kids pick up from the nonverbal communication of their parents. Sure, we're entitled to be frustrated, especially when our ex does something we feel isn't in the best interest of the kids. But what we often overlook is how much damage our reactions are doing too.

Psychotherapist and school counselor Missy Beck explained it best on a recent episode of our podcast, saying, "I think as adults we get this wrong pretty often. We think that our kids aren't noticing, or they're off playing int he other room. Or, if your kids are older, they're on social media...they are tuned out. However, when there is discord, there's things happening, they're still picking it up. And I think we sometimes end up fooling ourselves into thinking that they aren't getting that." 

"Kids are little sponges. They absorb everything. Teenagers as well. And they pick up on that energy. There is so much unspoken energy that happens."

And so, if our main focus here is making sure in everything we do we are focused on putting our kids first, the best way to do that is also our second-most often used phrase: Love your kids more than you hate your ex.

It doesn't matter how much you hate your ex — how terrible your marriage was or your divorce has been — think about the little ones first, and do not allow your anger and frustration with your ex get the best of you. Especially not in front of your kids.

Beck continued to hammer home her point with a feeling familiar to all of us.

"We all know what it's like when we are in a room and we're not getting along with somebody or when there is animosity or anger or resentment. That energy is palpable, and kids really pick that up. Even if they don't quite get that, and they're not fully conscious and cognizant of it, they're picking it up, even on a cellular level."

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