Tips to successfully navigating divorce, remarriage and blending families.
One of the requests we receive most often from our readers is a request to post more information on how other women have navigated life changes like divorce. This is certainly not a fun subject to cover but having been through it myself, I think it’s important to open up the conversation and offer inspirational insights from amazing women who have paved the way for all of us by honestly and openly providing details around their personal experiences. And because SFH is a forum for real women to discuss real issues and real strategies that help us all be the best versions of ourselves, we decided we needed to share Tawnya Penney’s inspirational story.
I sat down recently with an amazing woman, Tawnya Penney, to learn more about her perspectives on divorce, co-parenting, finding new love and what she feels she’s learned in the process.
Tawnya is not only the mom of two beautiful adult children, she’s also a successful woman in business and works as a Senior Real Estate and Construction Manager for AT&T. Talk about your #girlboss, Tawnya was a #girlboss before it became “a thing”. However, life wasn’t all roses and backyard BBQ’s, although she entered into marriage just the way we all do, with lifetime goals of love and happiness.
“Divorce is something you never plan on when you get married. I always thought I would be married forever.” ~Tawnya Penney
Ten years and two children into her marriage Tawnya and her husband decided to separate. Her children were seven and five at the time. It was an incredibly difficult decision but she knew it was the best choice for all of them. She explains they spent the next full year separated; it was tumultuous and hostile. What she learned during this time was that in order to move forward and be sure the children managed to get through this with as little damage as possible, they would have to resolve the enormous tension between them. How did they achieve this?
These four key factors played a vital role in making it work for Tawnya, her ex-husband, and her children:
- Never talk about the other parent in front of the kids
- Never argue in front of the kids
- Remember, the kids didn’t choose this path so keep them out of the arguments
- Reassure the kids, as much as possible, they are loved more than ever by both parents
- Co-parent: I always recommend co-parenting even though you are not together. This was so important to both of us and provided our children with some sort of consistency no matter what house they were at. I truly feel (even though this was hard) this is what made the biggest difference in making our blended family unit work. We became very diligent about talking to the other parent when issues arose and even with disciplinary actions, we agreed before we acted.
I asked Tawnya, What specific things did you consciously or unconsciously do that helped your children adjust to the divorce and eventual remarriages?
“Co-parenting was the most important part of the process. Once we decided this was vital to our kids we managed to put our disagreements aside long enough to make this happen. It was one of the best decisions we made during the divorce process”.
Explain the process you went through to blend your families after remarrying.
We always supported the kids as a family. I remarried first, then Mike did and they had another child. No matter what sporting event we went to for the kids we all sat together and cheered them on together. This way they didn’t have to choose who to go say hi to or make it awkward for them.
The bonus for all of us, was with the kids in sporting events every weekend all year long. We always got to see them, even if it wasn’t our weekend.
Trust me this was not easy at first but as time went on and the kids flourished with us doing this….. we all became more comfortable. Now, I go to Disneyland on a regular basis with the kids new little sister and step Mom. We have become friends. We had graduations (High School and College) to go thru as a family unit and we still have weddings and possibly grandchildren to celebrate together. Why miss out on wonderful memories when you don’t have to?
What key advice would you give other women who are trying to blend families and raise children through a divorce?
Forgive…… don’t hold on to your anger. Leave the negative energy behind and embrace the power of forgiveness.
Remind yourself that the hard times will pass and remember the rewards far outweigh the hardships.
Life is too short and time with your children is so precious. So make the most of the time you do have with them. And when they are with the other parent make the most of that time as well. Take care of yourself, this allows you to be a better parent for them.
Take one day at a time. Be kind and remember the kids come first.
Be the bigger person (This is the hardest thing to do) No matter how hard it seems, take the high road. Kids are smart and they will see the truth as they get older. So always take the high road and be the better person when the other parent is making your life difficult.