Divorce affects the whole family. It causes parents to worry about children in ways they never thought they would. As the relationship between a couple change from souse to ex, so does the parenting relationship. Whether you agreed on parenting styles before separation or parenting was one of the primary issues in your divorce, your family is changing, for better or worse. These changes don’t have to be detrimental; positive outcomes are possible.
While reactionary research lists a number of ills that befall children after divorce, research also shows that children can develop positively and grow to have more positive relationships once removed from the conflicts that lead to separation and divorce. Healthy attitudes and interactions will help children adjust to separation, divorce and shared parenting. Whether your relationship is cordial enough to discuss parenting, discipline and the shared responsibility of your children or has become so icy that even email is difficult, keeping your children’s best interest in mind is a priority.
It is okay to parent differently from your ex, and it is okay for them to parent differently from you. However, there are some key elements to co-parenting that will make the transition through separation and divorce easier.
Rewards and Consequences
After divorce, you are a single parent, either full time (if you have sole custody) or part time (if you have shared custody). There is a period of adjustment for you, just as there is for your children. During this time, follow through with both positive and negative consequences. This means if you want to reward your son or daughter for doing well in school, you should reward them. Tell your ex what you are doing and why. The same goes for consequences. If you have grounded your child, they are grounded with you — not your ex. You wouldn’t want to spend your week stuck at home for something that happened at your ex’s house; be fair and accept the same for them. Rewards and consequences should be followed through with the parent that assigns them. This practice will establish rules and routines for parenting that children can recognize.
One of the best things you can do for children during the transitions brought by divorce is set routines and boundaries for daily practice. Regardless of how often your children are with you, they will thrive with clear expectations for behavior. That means establishing and setting routines for grooming, waking, bed-times, TV, homework, chores, etc. These need to be practiced daily. You also need to set clear and fair rewards and consequences for behaviors. Be consistent and firm while showing love. Children can be quite clever during the divorce transition, testing boundaries and rules for behavior. Their world has been uprooted and they think all rules are transient. As a parent you must show them that even though we can be hurt and in emotional pain, we must also act appropriately. You will have to be the catalyst that re-establishes stability in their lives.
Being consistent with your time for your children will help them feel loved and protected. Regular one-on-one time with your child will help them make the adjustment. Even if your time is quite limited, devoting a special time just for the two of you will make a positive difference in their life.
Whether you agree completely on parenting strategies or have opposite approaches to parenting styles, it is optimal to share at least some of your parenting with your ex. You can set a strong sense of family after divorce by communicating, setting rules and routines for visitation and modeling good behavior. Setting rules for exchanges and visitations will establish order and routine for children. The more these occurrences become routine, the easier children will adjust to life after divorce. Meet in the same places and follow schedules as much as possible. The less anxiety you have over transitions will be reflected in your children. When you share parenting, it is essential to model good behavior. Even if you can barely stand to look at you ex, you need to be polite and concise. If you become upset by something, take a moment and step away. Modeling good behavior teaches your ex and your children how to behave through the divorce transition.
Educating yourself about your child’s stages of development, the impacts of divorce, and how to have conversations about emotions is key. Children are going to react differently to divorce. Do a little research about your child’s age, mannerisms and behaviors to gain some insight into how they might react to divorce or changes in family life.Also educate yourself on the impact that divorce has on children. Knowing how and why teenagers will react differently from smaller children will help you as you guide your children through divorce.
It is vitally important that you discuss emotions with your children. It is all right to feel sad, angry, defeated, and relieved. It is all right to feel different emotions all at once. However, if your emotions are causing you to act in ways that are rude or hurtful, that is an indication that there is still some healing to be done. Keep in mind that you are modeling how to get through a difficult life transition to your children. Have regular conversations about your feelings. Keep the language developmentally appropriate and do not discuss your adult issues. Teach your children about what they are feeling and ways to properly handle those emotions.
Your beliefs about divorce will need to be updated to be more accurate and help you heal. Contemplate where your beliefs concerning divorce originate. Chances are they are are a mix of stigma, what you’ve seen in the media and how you’ve been raised. If your beliefs are negative, revolving around hurt and pain, get help so you can begin to shift your thinking. Constantly dwelling on the hurt and negativity of your divorce will ensure you prolong your pain and lengthen your emotional recovery. However, if you embrace that there is no definitive outcome to divorce, only self-created experience, you will begin to define your divorce as a moment of change. This change will make you emotionally stronger and more capable of parenting with wisdom and confidence.