Recently, I returned from a trip to Turkey, where my book, “Putting Children First: Proven Parenting Strategies for Helping Children Thrive Through Divorce,” was published in Turkish translation. Now while I’ve conducted research and worked with parents and professionals all across the United States, and in several European countries, South Africa and Australia, I’m really not an expert on divorce in Turkey. So on my book tour, I was eager to learn about these parents’ experiences and insights, as well as to share some of the strategies that have proven so effective for separating and divorced parents in other parts of the world.
I’m so grateful for this experience. What I found in Turkey mirrored so much of what I’ve seen here in the U.S. and elsewhere, though perhaps even more poignant. Divorce is less common in Turkey than it is here, and less widely accepted in the culture. Because of those factors, the parents I met there felt greater measures of vulnerability and shame than parents here generally do. So I was particularly touched by the strength and courage it took for the Turkish parents I met to make a priority of coming to a weekend workshop, where they expressed their deepest feelings openly and sought ways to help their children adjust and thrive.
The experiences and feelings they shared, 5,000 miles away on the other side of the globe, were remarkably similar to those of parents right here in the U.S. They expressed a sense of loss, sadness and regret at the realization that their marriages were ending, and with them the dreams they’d once had for their lives together. They shared their feelings of anger, too, and worries about the future and their children, but also some positive feelings of relief and hopes for a better future, especially if there had been abuse and intense conflict in the relationship.
Perhaps the most painful stories were of lost relationships between parents and their children. They talked of the challenges of life in a single parent family, managing task overload and their fervent wish to find the strength and energy to raise strong healthy children.
There, as here, in the workshop we focused on the most critical factors that have proven to help children and parents thrive:
1) Managing conflict and protecting children from being caught in the middle of adult problems.
2) Quality parenting, providing children with abundant ongoing love and reassurance and at the same time providing clear, consistent expectations for responsible behavior, and limits.
3) Positive relationships between children and both parents, and with extended family, as long as it is safe.
4) Parents’ own emotional and physical well being, which is fundamental for parents to be able to focus on their children and provide quality parenting.
5) Household stability and healthy routines for children, including involvement in school and extracurricular activities, homework, meals together, limits on screen time and regular bedtimes.
I returned home, grateful for the opportunity to meet these courageous Turkish parents, and inspired – as I am so often – by the kind of love and dedication that enable parents everywhere to put their children first.