Nobody plans on getting a divorce or ending a relationship with someone….especially when children are involved. Unfortunately, for lots of reasons this does happen and the most difficult part (other than grieving for the relationship you thought would last forever) is the transition your kids must go through when they now must split their time between two houses & parents. Yes, we too became divorced parents raising children, or a child that is and here are some tips that helped my daughter become the happy young woman she is today.
I will start with my story & the things we did as divorced parents through the years to help my now 13 yr. old accept her new reality & help her become the self confident accepting young woman she is today.
So I got married right out of college at 22 & had my daughter at 24. We were already having major issues when I found out I was pregnant but as a child of divorce myself (& my parents did not get along at all so I had it rough), I wanted to avoid separating at all costs. Through the next few years it was obvious that the relationship was not going to be able to survive, and we moved to different houses when my daughter was about 2. I will start off by saying that in the beginning, even though both of you may be able to get along well, it is hardest at the beginning but rest assured if you are committed to creating the best living situation for your child it Will get better (it has been 11 yrs. now so I can look back and say that now). Here are my tips:
Divorced parents raising children
Communicate: As much as you would like to lose your exes # sometimes, it is very important to keep a line of communication going so that you are both on the same page. Whether it be to let the other one know your child has a cold & you just gave them cold medicine + when their next dose should be when you drop them off or that they haven’t finished their homework yet, it is Best for your child if you talk….especially when they are transitioning from one house to the other.
Share Consequences: This was a Big one for us, and I thank God we both stuck to it or I truly think things would not have turned out as well as they did. Make sure you discuss what should be done when your child disobeys you or breaks a rule with your ex beforehand. It can be a simple conversation, but it is important that you are both on the same page when it comes to consequences, and when a rule is broken and something is taken away, it is lost when they transition to the other house too! Many times my daughter lost t.v. for a day or more for not doing her chores, when she went to her dad’s house I was sure to tell him why she lost her t.v. and how long she still has for her consequence and he stuck with that while she was with him as well. Children know how to manipulate a situation (I know because my parents never spoke and I knew when I went to the other house the other parent wouldn’t know what happened & I got away with a lot), but can’t when they know their parents talk even though they are not together.
Be Consistent: Consistency can mean a lot of things, but in this situation I am referring to your child’s schedule. Yes, there are always times when something comes up and a schedule needs to be changed but keep that at a minimum. Knowing when and where they will be picked up or dropped off creates a sense of security in your child. They already feel as though their world is a little upside down, so creating a consistent schedule where they know every Sat. at 5pm let’s say, they will be dropped off at their dad’s house, and every Wed. at 5pm their mom will pick them up allows them to prepare themselves for that transition. As they grow older you can even give them a calendar with the parent’s name on each day so they can predict where they will be. This is also helpful when they want to invite friends over.
Minimize Transitions: This is So important in my opinion! I lived the life of a child who had to switch houses each week, on Sun. night and then again on Wed. night….it was horrible! For those of you who have 50/50 custody, that can be great but try not to switch houses during the week. Homework is difficult keeping everything straight when you have two desks and then realizing all your colored pencils etc…to finish an assignment are at the other house…..or realizing your gym clothes weren’t washed once you reach the other house and they are needed the next day, it just really complicates an already difficult situation. If you swap each week do it on the weekends, and if you have them during the week and your ex has them every other weekend, make sure they are picked up early enough so they have some time to adjust before going to bed and going to school the very next day…..made a huge difference for us.
Set Ground rules: There will be a time when one or both of you move on and meet someone else. It is important to discuss your feelings and thoughts about when you think it is appropriate for the new significant other to meet your child. It is likely you will not agree, however if you do that is fantastic. If you cannot come to a meeting of the minds such as “after you’ve dated for 6 mo.” or “after I meet them”, it is best to atleast let the other person know that there is someone in your life that is important to you. This is important in my opinion so you can atleast prepare your child for the possibility that they may meet an “important friend of Daddys” etc…. Along these lines, when someone else is brought into the picture you need to make sure that they are Not a part of the decision making process when your child’s schedule is involved. We went through this transition when we were both engaged to other people and my exes fiancee had two kids of her own, and thus her own complicated schedule with her ex. It is Very Important that you and your child’s other parent come up with a schedule that works best for you two and your child, and try not to involve the other two parties. It complicates the situation to have “too many cooks in the kitchen” and now four people want an input on where your child goes and when…..it just doesn’t work well, take it from me.
I am not an expert by any means on divorce, and of course every situation is different. I can only tell you what has worked well during the last 11 years of raising a child who unfortunately has to transition between houses for yet another 5 years before she heads off to college. These tips are from a mother and father who wanted and still want the very best for our daughter, even though we weren’t able to survive as a family unit we will always be a “family” to her and that is what is important.