The Gosselins are in the news again. Don’t know who they are? The family of twins and sextuplets from Jon & Kate Plus Eight, and now Kate Plus Eight. After going through a very public divorce, the family recently made headlines again when two of their six-year-old children were allegedly expelled from their school for misbehavior towards other children. And of course, the parents continue to take the spotlight by bickering over whether the children should appear on TV and by talking about each other.
Take away the cameras and the media and the sheer number of children involved and you’re dealing with a textbook post-divorce family. The Gosselins aren’t unusual at all. Few families move on after a divorce without some disagreement over finances and parenting. And most moms who are divorced need to talk about it with friends (in Kate Gosselin’s case she may be mistaking the media for her friends). Many children experience behavioral issues after a divorce and if you mix that up with how child stars fare in general, well, you’ve got a pretty clear idea that the Gosselins are going to have some difficulties.
I don’t want to bash the Gosselins – in fact, I feel sorry for them. A mom who found a way to support her unique family is dealing with the consequences of public life. A dad who has made some public mistakes is vilified. Kids who are just kids are behaving in the only way that makes sense to them. The only solution for them (getting out of the spotlight) takes away their livelihood. They’re in a tough spot.
If you find yourself living a less public version of the Gosselin story (vicious disagreements, not enough cash to go around, clashes on how to parent, and kids who are acting out), there are some solutions for you:
Get therapy. This is the best way to help your kids cope. Yes, they made it through the actual break up, but many, many children have reactions months and months after the fact once the new life has had a chance to settle in. Give your kid a safe place to talk and a counselor who is experienced in dealing with children of divorce. See a therapist yourself to help you find ways to cope with your own aftershocks.
Change your priorities. It is easy to say your kids are the most important thing in your life, but honestly, when you were going through the actual break-up, you had a lot on your mind. You changed. Your life changed. Your schedule probably changed. Everything was different when you come out the other side. Stop and decide that you need to spend one-on-one time with your kids in a regular manner and you need to make yourself available to them for unplanned contact as much as possible. I’m not saying quit your job and stay home, but be there by text if you can’t be there any other way. Stay involved, keep them talking to you, and find a way to do things with them. Give up some other things if you have to.
Negotiate a cease-fire. You and your ex might have worked through a divorce settlement, but you haven’t cleared up all the bad feelings between you. Honestly, you probably never will completely get rid of them, but it’s time to pull together as parents. If your kids are in trouble you HAVE to be on the same side. It’s time to stop assigning blame for who failed the kids. Now is the time to be a team. You have to talk to each other, you have to cooperate, and you have to come up with a consensus on how to deal with the problems. See a couples counselor if you can’t find any other way to work together.
Accept your financial reality. A divorce wreaks havoc on your finances. After attorney fees, property settlements, alimony, and child support, neither one of you can have the same lifestyle you had before the divorce. It has all changed. So it’s time to stop living in the past and accept what your new reality is. What changes can you make in your life to make your money go further? Most people underestimate the financial problems they are going to have after divorce and it’s a real shock to find out you just don’t have enough to make ends meet. See a financial counselor if you’re in over your head.
Stop talking smack about the other parent. Yes, it’s nice to let steam off to your friends, but if you’re doing that a lot, you’re actually making the situation worse. Instead of finding solutions, you’re wallowing in the problem. Take a week and say nothing bad about the other parent. In fact, force yourself to find something positive to say. You have to change your mindset. The other parent cannot continue to be your enemy. Change how you perceive the situation and you will change how you behave, which in turn will change how the other parent behaves.
And whatever you do, don’t go on Dancing with the Stars.
Brette McWhorter Sember is a retired family attorney and mediator and nationally known expert about divorce and parenting after divorce. She is the author of The Divorce Organizer & Planner (McGraw-Hill), How to Parent With Your Ex: Working Together for Your Child’s Best Interest (Sourcebooks) and No-Fight Divorce: Spend Less Money, Save Time, and Avoid Conflict Using Mediation (McGraw-Hill). She also does custody coaching. Her web site is www.BretteSember.com.