Good Parenting Need Not Be a Casualty of Divorce

Parenting After Divorce

Parenting After Divorce

 By Cathy Neville, LPC, NCC

Oftentimes divorced parenting feels like parenting with a cartoon thought-bubble over your head:
As you tuck them in, the thought pops in, “Are they really going to be okay?”When you swing through a drive-thru after soccer practice, up pops the thought, “A ‘conventional’ family would have time for dinners at the table.”After weekend drop-offs at your ex’s home, in pops the worry, “Have I ruined them for their own future happily married lives?”Divorce affects your family. It changes your life and theirs. But it doesn’t have to spell disaster.You have the opportunity to show them how to build a successful future, whatever the circumstances.Try a few of the following strategies for raising happy, well-adjusted kids in a divorced household:

Provide Stability, Role Models, and Structure…as Usual.

Generally speaking: Letting go of their two-parent household is not easy, but your leadership helps ease the transition. Kids thrive in a safe, well-ordered home environment, divorce or no divorce.

Your kids need you to behave maturely, provide wisely, and protect them diligently in ways that are comforting, calm, and familiar. You’re still the boss and though they may say otherwise, they count on it.

If you find yourself overwhelmed by the solo responsibilities or depressed by divorce, consider counseling for yourself or your family, if necessary.

Practical tips: Maintain your family routine as much as you are able. Keep the bedtime routine. Continue weekend activities or family game nights. Show your kids your family life still matters and will go on.

Hold to Your Standards: Keep them Real, Realistic, and Reliable.

Generally speaking: Divorce is tough on everyone, but don’t let it transform your parenting, family, and future into something that deviates from your core values and beliefs.

Be who you are. Maintain your focus. Divorce need not change those things.

Show your children that though you’ve taken a detour, you’re still on the road together, headed to somewhere healthy, happy, and whole.

Practical tips: Don’t try to make up for the divorce with lax expectations or “Disneyland” parenting. Set boundaries for your own household; follow through with consequences.

Expect push back, but don’t excuse it. If good grades, chores and respectful interaction have always been expected, they should still be expected. Teach children that hard circumstances don’t dictate character, responsibility or success.

If your faith, family gatherings, or regular time with community groups are sources of comfort or support, don’t give them up now. Show kids that divorce is no reason to give up what matters most.

Acknowledge, Express, Communicate. Repeat.

Generally speaking: It might be tough to face your kid’s feelings, hear their concerns, and listen, listen, listen. Still, respectfully discussing issues concerning your relationships is vital.

Allowing them to put it all out there does 4 key things:

  • Lessens anxiety. Facing worry and fear steals a lot of their power to control you.
  • Increases understanding. Empathy, connection, and self-esteem will blossom.
  • Lays a firm foundation for an open, honest, trusting relationship.
  • Gives them the tools to manage their feelings in a healthy way.

Practical tips:

  • Communicate that you and their other parent love them very much.
  • Communicate that you still respect and care about the other parent, if that’s the case. Affirm his or her place in your kids’ lives.
  • Give children time to deal with the changes by communicating them clearly, setting clear limits, and providing acceptable means for expressing their feelings.

Finally, recognize that no family is an island.

Your divorce journey needn’t be one of isolation or prolonged grief.

Call on a therapist or support group to help steer your parenting.

Soon, you’ll find your way.