You knew how to parent your children as a couple, but what do you do now in the midst of a divorce? Is now the time to institute new rules for your little ones? Reestablish family priorities? Or ease up on the discipline until the kids get through the emotional upheaval of your family’s break-up?
Whether you’re the custodial parent left holding the responsibility bag for all of those everyday parenting tasks and duties, or the off-site parent who is left feeling guilty and alone, knowing what their kids need, but unable to give it to them, your job as a parent will seem much harder after a separation or divorce – at least in the beginning. Your life just changed and so will the way you parent. We have many more Parenting Help Articles Now Available.
Oftentimes, divorced (or divorcing) parents pull back on discipline during this difficult time, mistakenly believing that this will help their children better handle the situation. Most experts agree that this strategy can be harmful. Leniency during a divorce has the tendency to elicit a wave of new undesirable behaviors in children. Divorce is hard on kids. It can lead to feelings of hurt, fear and instability. The best way to get them through the changes ahead is to try and remain as predictable as possible in regards to your expectations, discipline style and punishment. With so many other things changing in their lives during a divorce, they need to understand that the rules (and their consequences) remain the same.
What if you and your spouses parenting styles were part of your marital conflict and you’re ready to adopt a new style? When change is inevitable, be as clear and firm as possible regarding the new rules while the children are with you. Make it clear that what is OK with the other parent is not OK with you. Remember; also be fair, understanding, patient and gentle. It may take awhile for your kids to accept your new style of parenting. Being firm is different than being overbearing. It is possible to let them know what is expected without being mean or scary. Kids seek acceptance through their behavior. It’s your job to bring out the best in your kids by showing them the love and respect they too deserve.
Here are a few tips to get you through the beginning stages of your life as a divorced parent:
Be Consistent and Dependable.
Your kids need to know what you expect and what they can expect if they veer off course. Don’t be wishy-washy or inconsistent with your expectations or discipline procedures. And remember, your children are depending on you to make them feel safe again. Take every opportunity to assure them that they remain your utmost priority, no matter what else is going on in your personal life.
Forgive Your Spouse.
Even if you can’t forget what brought you to this new stage in life, find a way to forgive your spouse for whatever role they played in the divorce. And, never, ever bad-mouth your ex in front of the kids!
Be Honest With Your Kids about the changes in your life – in a positive way.
By all means share some of your disappointment that your life is going in a new direction, but make sure your kids understand that everything will work out fine, as long as you have them. Make them a part of choosing your new home (or decorating it), or making changes to your existing one to alleviate some of the emptiness felt when a spouse leaves.
Share the Job of Parenting with the Other Parent.
In most situations, a divorce does not mea that you are suddenly a single parent. It does mean that sharing parenting responsibilities will now be very different. Although it’s never easy, it’s your job as parents to figure out what works best for everyone – but especially your kids!
Take Care of Yourself.
Going through a divorce can be hard on your self-esteem. Take the time to care for your own spiritual and emotional needs in order to better equip you to help your children deal with theirs. We have many more Parenting Help Articles Now Available.
Parenting after divorce can be a struggle, but it can also free you to try a few new things you never could as a couple. Take this time to revaluate what parenting styles work for you, and what doesn’t. It’s anew life. Enjoy it!