Buckhead parent writes the book on making divorce work.
For the last seven years, Sarah Armstrong has heard the same comment from people who know her story: “They tell me I had such a good divorce,” says the Brookwood Hills resident.
And they’re not being facetious or snarky. In fact, they’ve come to Armstrong looking for suggestions on how they can make the best of their own bad situations. The former global marketing exec for Coca-Cola finally decided to put her advice in one place, and the result is The Mom’s Guide to a Good Divorce: What to Think Through When Children Are Involved, a 208-page collection of tips on about 150 topics to help moms—and dads— deal with all phases of getting divorced.
“There’s a lot to think through, and I always believed that no matter what leads you to make the decision to get divorced, you have to keep your children in mind,” says the mother of 13-year-old Grace. “My book is meant to be the positive things you can do when children are involved.”
In fact, Grace has given the book her stamp of approval. “She says it will help families,” says Armstrong, who had been married for 12 years when she divorced in 2009. “That’s the point: You have to be able to have discussions [with your ex-spouse] about your kids.”
Armstrong offers a range of suggestions to open those conversations, starting with the idea of a “collaborative divorce process” in which each party has a coach, a lawyer, a child specialist to keep them focused, and a neutral financial advisor.
“The model exists in the U.S., and many lawyers and coaches have adopted this approach,” she explains. “As a couple, you agree to specific principles and to operate in a certain way that’s usually the least litigious. And it’s probably shorter: In my case, from decision to final was only six months, which in the grand course of divorce is very quick.”
Armstrong presents a wealth of tips broken into “bite-sized pieces” that make them easy to grasp and don’t require a serious time commitment to digest. And those ideas can apply to moms of most every situation, from stay-at-homes to high-powered professionals. Among her top tips are:
Think ahead: All the decisions you make will affect your children through age 21. Discuss the future now, so you’re not debating points down the road.
Be careful in cyberspace: “With social media, divorce today is very different from when I grew up,” Armstrong says. “Think how you’re talking about your life online and how it will affect your child.”
Move on: Don’t let divorce define the rest of your life. “But know that the social dynamics change; I was no longer invited to parties or to go out with couples,” Armstrong says. “That was a big surprise for me.”
Lead by example: “You can be happy and have a happy child in a healthy, co-parenting relationship, regardless of why you ended up getting a divorce,” she says.
Armstrong is adamant that the book is not designed to help couples decide about getting a divorce. “But when it comes to the point when you need to make that change, there’s a lot to think through,” she says. “I want people to know there’s a resource of practical suggestions to help families get through it.”
A MOM’S GUIDE TO A GOOD DIVORCE, published by Life Journey Experiences, LLC, is available at Barnes & Noble and online at Amazon and gooddivorce.guide.
STORY: H.M. Cauley
Atlanta-based writer and editor contributing to a number of local and state-wide publications. Instructor in Georgia State’s Communication department and Emory’s Continuing Education division.