Take responsibility for the part you played. It’s easy to feel like a victim in your divorce and put all the blame on your former spouse. But that keeps you stuck in a place without growth. Before you can move beyond your divorce you have to “own” the role you played in the marriage as well as the insights you can take away to use in the months ahead. When we take responsibility for experiences in our lives we have the power to make positive changes — and that’s essential for creating the brighter future we all desire and deserve.

As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing Rosalind Sedacca. Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is recognized as The Voice of Child-Centered Divorce. She is a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, which provides advice, programs, coaching and other valuable resources for parents who are facing, moving through or transitioning after a divorce. She is the author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide To Preparing Your Children — With Love! — internationally acclaimed to help parents get through the tough divorce talk with the best possible outcome for themselves and their children. In addition Rosalind hosts the Divorce, Dating & Empowered Living Radio Show & Podcast. Rosalind is also a Dating After Divorce Coach and co-author of 99 Things Women Wish They Knew Before Dating After 40, 50 & Yes, 60! as well as the DatingRescue eCourse and Create Your Ideal Relationship Kit for women and Mastering the Challenges of Dating: A Success Formula for Men. She is co-creator of a 12-hr Anger Management Program for Co-Parents. Rosalind is an Advisor at ParentalWisdom.com, an expert contributor to the Huffington Post as well as a Contributing Writer for Exceptional People Magazine and the 2008 First Place Winner of the Victorious Woman Award. She is also the 2011 International Women’s Day Outstanding Service Award winner for her work with divorce and parenting issues.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve faced many difficult moments in my life. But preparing to tell my 11 year old son that I will be divorcing his father was absolutely one of the worst.

I struggled with anxiety for weeks. When should we tell him? What should we say? How do you tell a child that the life he has known is about to be disrupted — forever? How do you tell him that it’s not his fault? And how do you prepare him for all the unknowns looming ahead when you’re not sure yourself how it will turn out?

My greatest concern was how to break the news … without breaking my son’s heart.

One night I had an idea that resonated powerfully for me. I could prepare a storybook for my son. I could use photos and words to talk about our family — from before he was born to the present — preparing him for the new changes ahead.

The storybook in a photo album would give him something to hold on to, and read over again. Rather than stumbling through the conversation, it would give me a written script well thought through in advance.

While my husband was angry with me about many issues, he agreed the storybook was a smart idea. We decided to present it together.

Having the book to hold on to was helpful for my son. We discussed the impending divorce many times in the next weeks and months, often rereading sections in the book as a reminder that things will be okay. And as co-parents, we both worked hard to make sure it really was.

It’s been more than a decade since I prepared that storybook. It became the basis for my founding the Child-Centered Divorce Network. My now-grown son came to me one day as a young adult, and out of the blue, he thanked me for the way his dad and I handled the divorce and co-parenting. He told me most of his friends with divorced parents were angry and resentful toward them. However he was still close to his father and me and acknowledged us for doing a great job as co-parents!

That was one of the signature moments in my life. I let out a long sigh of relief, releasing much of the guilt I had been holding onto for years. It felt so wonderful to know my son didn’t hate me about the divorce. He had a happy childhood despite the divorce. He still loved both his dad and me. What more could a parent want?

My adult son is now happily married and recently gave me the joy of becoming a grand mother! There’s no greater gift than seeing your child happy and thriving in life. He’s still quite close to his father and me — and for that I am eternally grateful!

Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about “divorce”?

As a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network I have coached hundreds of parents on co-parenting success strategies for more than ten years. My digital e-books and e-courses and programs have helped many hundreds of additional parents make better decisions on behalf of their children during and long after divorce. I continuously write articles for top divorce and parenting blogs and am invited to speak at conferences and online summits on topics related to divorce, co-parenting and dating after divorce. I have letters from parents around the world attesting to the value of my programs and services.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

When I spoke at a Divorce conference in New York City I invited my son, who was 11 when I divorced, and is now a married father, to attend with me. After my presentation everyone in the audience was surprised when I invited my son up onto the stage to answer questions with me about his own story of being a child of divorce. His candor and compassion in telling his personal story brought tears to everyone’s eyes as he shared his own experience along with the ups and downs of having two homes, step-parents and lots more. Many people came up to us both to thank us for this expanded perspective on life as a co-parent and teen far beyond the divorce.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When first starting as a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach I didn’t have a pre-call questionnaire for clients to complete. When we began our calls they would get lost in their divorce story making it hard to figure out where they were now and what they needed to accomplish through coaching. The flip-flop message were bordering on hysterical in some cases. Once I created a personal application form and asked pertinent questions in advance, the coaching sessions were much more effective and my clients were much more pleased with their results.

If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?

Accepting the reality and finality of divorce can be a tough challenge. We need to be able to let go of the life we knew and prepare to face an unknown future. That can be intimidating. Here are 5 key steps to accepting your new reality with grace, peace and positive expectations for a happier life ahead, especially if you’re also a parent!

1) Focus on yourself — not on your former spouse

We can’t ever undo the past. But the past can undo us — if we’re not careful about our thoughts, beliefs and actions. The only one we can ever change is ourselves. Don’t waste valuable time pining about the past, blaming your ex or wishing you had done something differently. Focus instead on how you can transform yourself today into the person you most want to be. When you shift from within, things on the outside will shift as well. Only then can you choose to make healthier decisions about your life and your future new life partner.

2) Seek out the support you need 

 Tough times demand support systems if we want to progress into the next stage in our lives. Recovering from the wounds of divorce is not something to tackle alone. Reach out for a coach, therapist, support group or member of the clergy experienced in this work. It will accelerate your progress while boosting your self-esteem at the same time. There is no shame in needing support. The world’s top athletes, entrepreneurs, actors and others all depend on coaches to achieve greater success!

3) Accept that this is a process

Feeling angry, depressed, embarrassed, hurt or other negative emotions is a natural part of the grieving and moving on process after divorce. Accept your feelings and look for the lessons you’ve learned through your marriage and divorce. These can be gifts you can use when you’re ready to move ahead and step out into your new reality. If you’re feeling stuck in any emotion and can’t let go, reach out for the help you need from an experienced professional. Remember, you’re not alone, so don’t isolate yourself or stay immersed in your pain.

4) Take responsibility for the part you played

It’s easy to feel like a victim in your divorce and put all the blame on your former spouse. But that keeps you stuck in a place without growth. Before you can move beyond your divorce you have to “own” the role you played in the marriage as well as the insights you can take away to use in the months ahead. When we take responsibility for experiences in our lives we have the power to make positive changes — and that’s essential for creating the brighter future we all desire and deserve.

5) Remember you are a role model for your children

Regardless of whether they acknowledge it or not, your children are watching and learning from you through lessons both good and bad. What are you teaching them about how to recover from a challenge in life? What are they learning about how to deal with conflict and difficult people around you? What lessons are they getting about taking responsibility for your life and your actions? What are you modeling about being a victim versus becoming victorious, despite tough times? Your children will thank you for being a mature, responsible parent and showing them how to overcome challenging situations. Step up and BE the parent they need now and in the future!

What are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?

Because I specialize in divorce with children I am focusing my answer in that direction. Talking about divorce to your children is tough. You don’t want to make errors you will regret.

There are many common mistakes parents make at this time. Here are six of the most important ones to avoid.

  • Putting your ex down in front of the kids. When you speak disrespectfully about your children’s other parent they are often hurt and riddled with guilt and confusion. Their thinking is, “If there’s something wrong with Dad or Mom, there must also be something wrong with me for loving them.” This can result in damaging your own relationship with your children, as well.
  • Fighting around the children. Studies show that conflict is what creates the most pain and turmoil for children of divorce. Keep parental battles away from your children — even when they’re sleeping or when you’re on the phone. The more prolonged the battles, the more lasting damage they do. Your children deserve peace of mind.
  • Pressuring children to make choices. Most kids feel torn and guilty when asked to choose between their parents. Don’t put them in that position.
  • Neglecting to tell your kids that they are not at fault. Don’t assume your children understand that they are victims in your divorce. Remind them frequently that they bare no blame in any way related to your divorce — even and especially if you are fighting with their other parent about them.
  • Sharing information only adults should be aware of. Parents often do this to bond with their children or try to win them over. It creates a burden that children shouldn’t have to bare. Talk to adults about adult issues, not your children.
  • Using your children as confidants or spies. Don’t ask and expect your kids to tell you secrets about their other parent’s life and home. It makes them feel uncomfortable and puts enormous pressure on them. Don’t make your kids your confidants. They’ll resent you for it.

Fortunately you can reach out to many different professionals to help you if you’re not positive about how best to approach your children. Speak to a divorce mediator or see a therapist who specializes in this subject. Find an attorney who practices Collaborative Law, which will result in more positive, cooperative outcomes. Seek the advice of parenting coaches, school counselors, clergy and other professionals. Don’t forget the many valuable books and articles on this topic.

Whatever you do, prepare yourself in advance when talking to your children. Be aware of the impact of your words on their innocent psyches. Think before you leap and give your family a sound foundation on which to face the changes ahead with security, compassion and love.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?

www.childcentereddivorce.com: blog, articles, programs and resources

www.divorceforce.com: articles, expert advice

www.wevorce.com: professional services and resources

Stop Fighting Over the Kids: book by Mike Mastracci, Esq.

Love Your Children More Than You Hate Each Other: book by Lauren Behrman, Ph.D.

Divorce, Dating & Empowered Living: radio show and podcast hosted by Rosalind Sedacca

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that helped you in this work? Can you share how that was relevant in your real life?

We can’t undo the past. But the past can undo us — if we let it! ~ Rosalind Sedacca

I learned that we have a choice in every moment regarding how we behave and react to challenges. If I stay caught in past drama it can totally impact my future in a negative way. So I need to be consciously aware of every decision I make. Is it for good? Will it hurt me or others? What lessons have I learned that I am avoiding now? Am I moving ahead proactively or reactively? The answers will define the future I am creating. That lesson impacts all of my coaching work with clients.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

January is International Child-Centered Divorce Month, commemorated every January for the past 12 years. Our goal is to educate the public and media about the consequences of divorce done wrong and how it impacts innocent children around the world. We have a special website, digital gifts for parents, valuable tools and educational interviews. All are free! Thousands of people benefit from these resources, found at: www.divorcedparentsupport.com/ebook.

I am starting a new Coaching Club for divorcing and divorced parents giving them the insights and strategies they need to avoid serious divorce mistakes.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The Child-Centered Divorce Movement would take divorce out of the realm of the legal system and into the realm of mental health. Divorce with children would not be about win/lose decisions, but about true mediation regarding the best interest of each child involved. This would transform the current system into a more compassionate, empathic, family-focused system committed to more equitable custody, relieving the negative impact of parental alienation and teaching skills for better conflict resolution and win-win co-parenting.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Dr. Phil

Dr. Oz

Oprah Winfrey

Michelle Obama

Marianne Williamson

Diane Sawyer

They would all value my work on behalf of children of divorce and have the influence to spread the word accordingly.