Is your Ex a Natural Disaster? The Lessons of Hurricane Season

A divorced parent has a lot to learn from the lessons of hurricane season. Hurricane season repeatedly effects the South, yet life goes on.  In spite of this known event, Florida's population continues to grow.  How do they continue to thrive in the midst of natural disasters? They prepare.  They control what they can. They clean up when it's over.  They persevere.  A divorced parent can use this as inspiration when in the presence of a Natural Disaster Ex.

Just like the hurricane warnings, you can predict your Ex's behavior.  If a hurricane is brewing out in the sea, chances are, it's going to hit.  If your Ex was a disaster once, chances are, he or she will be a disaster again.  It's as predictable as the approaching storm.  Don't be unprepared.  Don't let your child be unprepared.  A person who fails to prepare for a hurricane is just as neglectful as the parent who fails to prepare his or her child.  You know it's going to happen, so shame on you if you let the destruction hit full force.  A Natural Disaster Ex comes in all varieties.  Some are an overly controlling Ex, insisting that visitation commence and end within a specified minute, putting undue stress on their child.  Some are unreasonable, refusing to change the visitation schedule even if it means that their child will miss an important event.  Some Exs are hurtful, spewing venom about the other parent as their child disintegrates into tears.  When your child is unprepared, your Ex's behavior can be devastating.  Is your Ex a Natural Disaster?  You can't prepare unless you recognize the signs.  Adjust your antenna to get a clear signal, then tune in.  When the Natural Disaster Ex is approaching: prepare.

As the winds kick-up, it becomes apparent that the storm will come: there is nothing anyone can do to change its course. But to lessen the impact, residents control what they can.  The long lines at the home-improvement store are proof that the residents are going to put effort where it counts. A parent, who faces a Natural Disaster Ex, can respond in many ways.  Heed the lesson: recognize what you can't control and take control over that which you can.  While most divorced parents blame the other parent for creating the conflict, studies show that either parent, by his or her own actions, actually can prevent 80% of the conflict.  Stop trying to control your Ex and start taking control by creating a more loving and gentle atmosphere for your child.  You can't control your Ex's behavior but you can control yours -- and your behavior has a tremendous impact on your child's well-being.  Establish routines with your child; arrange events that are free of conflict; and, resolve that you won't let your Ex control your or your child's emotions. When you are facing a divorced parenting situation control it, set the mood, and stay focused on your child's need for love and peace.  Control what you can.  Let go of what you can't.

Once the storm has passed, cleanup begins.  The hurricane support signs are posted everywhere: "Hurricane emergency donation kits accepted here."  These kits contain many of the tools that a natural disaster victim may need.  What about you and your child?  When dealing with a Natural Disaster Ex, what should your emergency kit contain? 

You should provide to your child a well-stocked kit containing understanding, patience, love, and peace, plus a large supply of listening.  These are the tools that will clean up the mess. 

The tool of understanding will come in handy, when you comfort your child who is understandably upset at missing an important event.  "I understand you're upset, and you have every right to be.  I know it's hard to see, but I don't think your Mom/Dad is trying to hurt you.  She/he just doesn't see another way."  

For the controlling Ex, use the tool of patience.  In the case of the minute counting situation, exercise patience during the visitation exchange, biting your tongue and smiling instead of arguing over minutes lost. 

The most important tool is love. Your Ex may say hurtful things, but your response of love will have the lasting effect.  As you're tucking your child into bed, gently reassure him/her that "Mommy loves you very much and Daddy loves you very much."  Your job isn't to judge the love that your ex has for his/her child, but to tell your child that the love exists.

When your child repeats hurtful words that she overheard the other parent state, respond in peace.   Reassure him/her that no matter what the other parent may say, it doesn't effect the love that parent has for him/her and that your wish for that parent to find happiness goes unchanged. 

Lastly, when a Natural Disaster Ex has occurred, take time to listen -- listen to your child and validate his/her feelings.  Listening is a tool that should be plentiful.

Don't confuse an awful Ex with an abusive Ex.  Your child must be shielded from physical or sexual abuse.  An abusive Ex isn't a Natural Disaster; this Ex is a criminal.  In these extreme cases, your child should be protected with the enforcement of the legal system.

Like the residents that emerge through a hurricane, you and your child can manage through a Natural Disaster parent.  Residents of the South realize that there are many benefits of staying in hurricane range that far outweigh the option of permanently moving from their homes. Even in the presence of a Natural Disaster Ex, your child benefits from a relationship with both parents.  Your child's well being is worth whatever extra effort that you may have to exert.

When dealing with a Natural Disaster Ex, it is your responsibility to be prepared, control what you can, and clean-up when it is over.  Ask any Floridian and they will tell you that yelling, screaming, and crying over a storm doesn't protect their house from the winds.  It is only through real work and effort that they board-up and wait for the sun to return.  To your child, your comforting smile is as bright as any sunshine.

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