Undoubtedly, one of the biggest challenges during divorce and in the initial stages of separation, is parenting. Parenting is a labour of love even in intact homes. However, add divorce and it is riddled with guilt, logistical obstacles, loneliness and tug of war. If you’re experiencing any of this know you’re not alone.
The guilt seems insurmountable at times. You feel terrible as a parent that you have caused your child’s life to change. They didn’t ask for this after all. But remember, they are learning tough lessons if you stayed in an unhappy, or volatile marriage. An intact family does not necessarily mean happy children. The divorce will bring change but change means growth for all of you including the children. They become more empathetic people as a result of this change. Also, remain true to your parenting ethics. Try not to let guilt interfere with your house rules and parenting style.
Next, logistical obstacles are bound to occur with scheduling time between two homes. Start a yearly schedule to show which parent they will be with and when. Although you can discuss custody arrangements with your children, be cognizant that ultimately it should be the parents’ decision. Mom and Dad know what’s best, not a 10 year old. Communication with the other parent is paramount to reducing logistical nightmares. What special events do the children have? When are they going to camp? Who is paying for registration for their activities? Who will volunteer and when? All of these types of issues will be well organized and understood with a detailed plan and calendar of events.
Loneliness is an emotion we all feel when we separate. It doesn’t help that we inevitably lose time with our children since we are now “sharing” parenting time with our ex.
Accept that you will be alone more and try not to compensate for this by trying to see the children when they are with their other parent. As tempting as this is, it is much more effective to be respectful of the other parent’s time with the kids. This should be a mutual arrangement. Instead, anticipate your “alone” time. (see my blog; TOP 10 Reasons to Love Living Single November, 2011) Get in touch with old friends, find or rekindle an old passion or hobby. Be social. It is difficult, but trust me it gets easier in time. Soon the parenting arrangement feels normal and runs quite smoothly.
Lastly, tug of wars are bound to occur between you and your ex. He wants them during your week or he attends activities and events he was previously absent from. He doesn’t tell you about a trip he has planned for the kids next week. His sister calls the kids and requests them for lunch when you’ve already made plans for them that day. She failed to ask you first. All of these situations lead to tug of war or a mini struggle.
Your children are precious to you. Suddenly your time with them goes as fast as the sand in an hourglass. Although flexibility is important, the obtrusive demand for the children when they should be with you is destructive and undermining. If there is a special occasion, and lots of warning it would certainly be reasonable to allow access and again, this must be mutual. The planning and schedule along with mutual respect, will definitely cut down on the tug of war syndrome of shared parenting.
Here are my top 5 tips to meet Parenting Challenges;
1) Allow at least a month before legally committing to a parenting “custody agreement”, this will give you some time to assess the climate of the divorce, your ex and the needs of the children
2) Stay true to your parenting style; maintain routines, and house rules including setting boundaries (i.e. is there one day of the week devoted to you and your children only; no outsiders?)
3) Set up a yearly parenting schedule on a calendar including who has them when, but listing any holidays, school events or special occasions to alleviate logistical confusion
4) Make plans for your own social and work life so you do not rely on your children for emotional support
5) Try to keep communication open (with children as well as your ex) and maintain mutual respect to limit tug of war syndrome
Maintaining a healthy family post separation, will be your greatest challenge. It can be done. Remember, you know what is best for your family so stay strong. There will be pain but without pain, there is no growth. You and your children are a new family unit moving toward the future together. To meet your parenting challenges believe in yourself, trust your instincts and it will fall into place in time.
What is your parenting challenge? Do you have some parenting after separation tips to share? I’d love to hear from you!
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