Parenting After Divorce
Divorce is never easy, and divorce when children are involved can be a touchy situation. Throughout the divorce process, parents may feel pangs of guilt or anger due to the changing circumstances in their children’s lives. Parents may mourn over the fact that their children’s lives will become lives of two- two homes, two separate families. However, it is important parents do not let feelings of guilt or anger drive their behavior as a parent. We as parents need to remember to love our children more than we may resent the situation or our former spouse. This is unfortunately easily forgotten when parents are in the fresh turmoil of recent separation or divorce.
Guilt can manifest itself in many different forms but below are the three most commonly seen behaviors by parents after divorce.
- Parents may be too controlling and strict after divorce. Divorce can be a messy process and sometimes even chaotic depending on the circumstances. Parents may feel a loss of control and, in an attempt to gain a sense of order, they may become overly controlling, especially when the children are spending time with the other parent. An example would be strict guidelines in regards to how clothing and toys are handled- I.e., asking your child why Mom didn’t send her purple socks back to your house.
- Parents may be too lenient after a divorce. Some parents respond to feelings of guilt after divorce by letting the children rule the roost. They do not set boundaries or discipline children for bad behavior. In addition to feelings of guilt, some parents worry that if they don’t do what their children want then the kids will ask to go “home” to their other parent. This issue can often be a struggle for noncustodial parents as they want their already limited time together to be happy and carefree.
- Guilt can cause competition instead of cooperation. Often divorced parents may try to outdo one another in order to win favor with their children. A mother may buy her son a bike for good grades, so the father goes out and buys him a car causing tension between the ex-spouses. Tensions may also rise if one parent withholds information about school functions, medical appointments, or field trips in an attempt to make the other parent appear unsupportive of the children.
These behaviors are not always carried out purposefully and can be hard to see by a parent who is hurting from the effects of divorce. Parents must realize children need to feel safe, nurtured, and loved regardless of if their parent s are together or separated. Children struggle against but crave and thrive when clear boundaries and rules are established and adhered to consistently. Parents should always focus on doing what is right for their children and being the best person they can be for their kids’ sake. There are many parenting courses available for divorced parents to learn coping skills and parenting skills so they can work together and provide the best life possible for their children.
Counseling sometimes is necessary if a parent cannot look past their anger and resentment such that it continues to negatively impact the children. Engaging in persistent hostile communication, including name calling, is not lost on the children, even if they are not present. Children are perceptive to these feelings of hostility even if not present during the exhibition of such anger.
Focus on the good moments during the marriage and always remember; love your children more than you resent your former partner.