Peaceful Divorce

A article By Randy A. Royse


I recently read My Mother Got Married (and other disasters).  The author, Barbara Park, tells the story from the point of view of eleven-year-old Charlie Hickle.  Charlie’s parents are recently divorced and he is beginning to adjust.  Then slam!  His mother backs her car into a landscaper’s truck, and a few months later Charlie has a stepfather, a teenage stepsister, and a 5-year-old stepbrother added to his life.  It’s not the “Brady Bunch”, and Charlie struggles with his new “family.”

Family is important and also important is how parents define family.  Family can refer to a parent and a child.  Family can also be as inclusive as everyone for whom we care about.  I believe parents, especially divorcing parents, need to agree on a definition of family that their children can find comfort in understanding. 

Mediators should take the initiative to guide the discussion of defining family.  Mediators can give parents homework to study to better prepare them for a discussion about family.  The task statement can be simply, “define family for the benefit of our children.”  Then with the help of the mediator, the parents should work towards a mutually acceptable definition.  Even though I believe this is important, I keep this discussion short.  Parents expect to keep moving forward. 

A few examples of definitions of family are as follows:

  • Everyone I or my parents care deeply about.  This definition of family would include those persons normally referred to as friends or neighbors.  This definition may be too broad for some parents. 
  • Parent and child.  I would challenge parents whom want to agree to this as the definition of family.  This definition creates two separate families for the child.
  • Me and my mom and my dad.  This definition appears fine, but it does not allow for the parents to add a stepparent to the definition.
  • Everyone in my house.  This definition has the same problems as “parent and child” above.
  • Me, my parents, and anyone living with me.  This excludes grandparents (unless they are in the house). 
  • Me and everyone I am related to blood or marriage.  This might be acceptable to teenagers, but might be hard to explain to younger children. 

Parents often find a definition that they can live with and their children can find comforting.  No one definition is right for all situations.  This is one more way to help children better understand and cope with their new “family.”


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