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Respecting Your Ex: An Example for Your Kids

Chapter Twenty Two of the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament states  to “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” This sentence is loaded with wisdom beyond the surface level. Children do not learn from what we say, they learn from how we behave. Kids these days are far more advanced at younger ages than generations prior, thus making this approach all the more important. Even when we think they are too young or won’t notice, they are keenly aware of what we do and are always watching.

Respect is Necessary

I have been divorced for over 4 years and  have little control over how my ex-wife behaves in front of our two children. Due to our custody arrangement, my time with the kids is quite limited to a few hours once a week and every other weekend. WIth such an arrangement in place, my interaction with them must reflect how I wish for them to act as they mature into adulthood. Anyone who has been divorced is more than likely aware of the challenges of co parenting with an ex who may still carry resentment, anger, and hurt from the marriage. When two people in a relationship break up and have no kids, they can have a clean break and move forward without looking back. However, when there are children involved, this is impossible. If both parents choose to raise the children as a team when they may not particularly like each other, the behavior shown to their children must be exhibited with respect. As difficult as it may be to keep emotion or bitterness towards your ex spouse at bay, this is paramount to children learning how to cultivate successful relations with others.

This past Mother’s Day Weekend was also  my time to have my children for the day. I told them that we had a fun day planned and one of the special trips we were going to make was to the store to pick out gifts for their mother. My desire to show my children that I respect their mother above all else trumped my own selfish desire to not spend my time or money on her. I brought them to a store and gave the guidelines to pick whatever they wanted to get her. They chose a few cute gifts and a giant greeting card that was taller than my 5-year-old. We spent an hour and a half in the store and had a great experience creating memories together. Ask me if I would’ve done this a few years ago on the day she filed for divorce and I would’ve laughed. However, with my own healing, learning how to be a single dad only intensifies my desire to show my children a healthy example.

No matter what issues arise between my ex-wife and I, my policy is to never let a negative word be said in front of them regarding their mother. Sometimes, I admit, this policy is nearly impossible to adhere to. On many occasions I’ve had to practice grounding techniques such as deep breathing or meditation to remind myself of who I want my children to see in their father. People will do what you do not what you tell them to do. This lesson can begin with our children and is easily understood in adulthood. No matter who hurt who or which person is perceived at fault in the breaking down of a marriage, the children remain the ultimate gift from above and must be treated as such. No matter which way you lean spiritually speaking, the following verse in Luke 12:48 is necessary when speaking of how to raise up our children. “To whom much is given, much is required.” Respect for everyone, especially to the person our kids call mom or dad is part of such a great responsibility. Next time you want to speak harsh words regarding an ex, remember those little people are always watching.

Please check out my friend’s great article that relates so well –

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