It's sad news to hear that Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from Brad Pitt this week. They seemed to be the icon of what a modern family should be. Both parents are previously married and divorced with children from all backgrounds and cultures, living happily together. Well obviously not that happily as it turns out.
A difference in parenting methods has been blamed as one of the main reasons for the Brangelina split. Parenting together can be a minefield, especially if you have different ideas about how to do it. If there are problems in the foundation of your relationship already and then you add in on top of this differences of opinion on how to parent then this can cause huge cracks to appear.
Looking in from the outside there are always going to be challenges when you are raising six children together. They will all have different personalities and needs and all be motivated to behave and achieve in different ways. So one parenting style will never fit all.
You often will learn your parenting style from your personal childhood experiences. You will be strongly influenced by your parents and your feelings on how they fared. If you liked their approach you are more likely to adopt it and if you were unhappy then you may have strong opinions and use very different methods. It's one thing you really won't know about your partner until you actually have children and then it can come as quite a shock, especially if your views are conflicting.
It will always work better if your main parenting values are aligned on the basics for example with things like honesty, morals and discipline. You can always negotiate on smaller issues like how much time they spend on the iPad or watching TV.
Here are my top 7 parenting tips to avoid divorce over parenting issues:
- Set parenting boundaries in advance so that you both know what each other is expecting
- Respect your partner. Support them when you are with the kids and don't openly disagree over parenting in front of the kids.
- Pick your battles and understand that it's normal to have different approaches
- Communication is key and it's important not to let things fester
- Be open to compromise and be flexible.
- Put the children's best interests first and not yours.
- Remember a happy and harmonious home is important.
Be aware that there is no one right way to parent and you may need to use a combination of different approaches. Everyone has their own parenting style and will naturally find it easier to parent certain personalities than others. For Brangelina with six different kids from different background and cultures it was already a mammoth task and bound to put substantial strain on the strongest of partnerships.
I'm a big believer that divorce doesn't have to damage children but it will depend on how the parents behave. At the moment for Brad and Angelina it does appear to be what I term "aggressive severing" rather than "conscious uncoupling". With any divorcing couple there will be some level of conflict and playing that out in the media glare is even more of a minefield. However the children will take the lead from their parents.
Divorce can be a valuable life lesson for children to learn how to cope when life doesn't work out the way you had hoped. It could be empowering at a young age to see their parents turn a difficult situation into a positive one.
It's quite normal to have high levels of conflict during the early stages as your stability and routine are changing. Just because a divorce starts out as acrimonious it doesn't mean it always has to be. Often once the finances and logistics have been resolved then life can get more balanced and relationships can at least be what I have termed "functionally friendly".
I hope this will be the case for Brangelina as there is no need to destroy all the happy memories. Sometime good things fall apart so that better things can come together. I'm hopeful we will see this for them all in the press over the next few months.