How Jennifer Lopez (And You) Could Handle a Divorce
When it comes to protecting her kids from the divorce battles, Dr. Anne K. Gross has plenty of advice for JLo.
– Anne K. Gross, Ph.D.
This summer Jennifer Lopez finally summed up enough courage to leave her domineering, controlling, and jealous husband Marc Anthony. Now she can reclaim her life, turning her attention back to her career and raising her two adorable twins, Emme and Max. Under the best of circumstances, such a transition is difficult. But when you’re a national celebrity, and you can’t control what your children hear in the news media (or from the stranger on the street), the task can seem overwhelming.
But if JLo had the determination to leave Marc, I believe she can find it in herself to do what’s right for her kids. So if I could sit down with her, here is what I would tell her. If you’re going through a divorce without the joys of paparazzi, this information can also be very useful.
1. Talk to your children about what is being said in the media.
Jennifer should be sure her children understand that as celebrities, people will write things about their personal lives that are not only hurtful, but many times not true. When it comes to protecting her kids against such gossip, I have three suggestions.
First, help her children make a distinction between their family’s behavior (i.e. Marc’s anger), and who they are as people. For example, she might say: “It’s hard to hear others talk about Daddy’s anger, but we also know that he is a good person.”
Second, help them rely on their own judgment as opposed to what they hear. I suggest telling them: “What others are saying is not true, and I think we are the best judge when it comes to knowing our family.”
Finally, in response to those outside the family who tease them about their situation, JLo should encourage Max and Emme to avoid responding with anger and instead say: “That’s not true, and it hurts when you say that.”
2. Strive for real connection with your kids.
The best way for Jennifer to inoculate her children against the media spotlight, as well as the changes in their lives, is to strengthen her relationship with them. Although no one is privy to what went on “behind closed doors”, if their behavior as depicted in the media is any indication, their relationship did not model good communication. Rather than sharing their thoughts and feelings in a supportive atmosphere– the hallmark of intimacy – their marital relationship was defined by extremes: bouts of quick temper and distancing, followed by begging and loving reconciliation. Although seemingly opposite sides of the same coin, both are fueled by each person’s high level of anxiety and fear. They are talking at each other, rather than aiming to achieve a true sense of understanding of how each of them feels.
In order to achieve real connection with her children, Jennifer should spend uninterrupted time with them. In an environment where they are away from the “drama” of their parent’s marriage, they will hopefully feel less anxious and open up to her. Which leads me to the next point.
3. Don’t dismiss Emme and Max’s feelings.
I would expect both of her kids to have an array of feelings regarding their changed lives: sadness one day, carefree the next. Try to let your children know that the myriad of feelings are okay. For example, she may say, “its okay to feel sad.” In the face of Marc’s absence in the kid’s lives, it is similarly important to validate how hard that is for the children, without defending his behavior. So she may say, “Daddy is going through a difficult time, and I’m sorry that he’s dealing with it by staying away from you.” She should add by giving them their wish in fantasy, “I sure wish your dad would visit you more.”
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