[Y]ou married the wrong person. You admit your mistake. You have divorced, and are in the process of picking up the pieces and get on with your life, all made more difficult because of the children involved. They are a part of the separation. They will go through emotional difficulties as well, and those issues must be addressed.
However, these are children. Lines must be drawn. Certain topics are off-limits.
Five Tips for the Newly Divorced Parent
What follows are five tips to avoid mistakes divorced parents. Following these will help you keep a good relationship between you and your children, and even Johnny’s other parent.
1. Don’t make your child the messenger. Aside from it being a shirking of your responsibility, asking children to act as go-betweens in parental discussions puts pressure and stress on them. eMail allows parents to be direct and focused on a discussion of the child’s situation. And it also leaves a record of what has been said.
2. Avoid using children for your therapy. If you need therapy, hire one or rely on a trusted friend (possibly someone who has been through a similar situation). More than ever, after a divorce, children still need parents to be parents. Using them to salve your conscience or dumping your problems on to them leads to confusion and mistrust.
3. Failure to listen. Children often need an adult to listen, not to tell them what to think or how to respond to a situation. Just listening without judging shows you trust their judgment. Many times, simply verbalizing can lead them to an answer or alleviate a problem.
4. Avoid the third degree during “re-entry.” After visiting the non-custodial parent for a weekend, it’s tempting to ask about everything that went on, in other words, to pry. Family and divorce expert M. Gary Neuman says this is a mistake, saying, “Treat it as if they just visited an aunt or uncle.” He adds that ignoring that they have been anywhere makes them wonder if they can ever talk about that world. “Ask your kid fun and general questions, which diffuses tension. And then let it go.” In my personal blended parenting, I call the time of coming home… “re-entry.” During that time I avoid asking ANY detail questions about my daughter’s weekend, stick to high level and general, then focus on normal Sunday evening routines. I have found my daughter needs usually a full evening to “re-enter” and shift.
5. Repair damage you’ve already done. If you are guilty of any one (or more) of one through four, apologize for your behavior. Children are remarkably forgiving. Explain what you’ve done wrong, then commit to changing your behavior. And give your child a signal when you begin criticizing the other parent, such as raising a hand. That will tell you that you have gone over the line and you should change the topic.
What parenting tips would you recommend for a newly divorced parent?
Feature image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici via FreeDigitalPhotos.net.