Parenting in a divorced families is really difficult. Here are 8 tips to help alleviate the stress:
- You are responsible for your house. It’s great if you and your ex-spouse can both agree on the same methods of parenting. However, there’s a strong chance you don’t. If you have a different parenting philosophy, don’t concern yourself with what happens at the other house. Just take care of things at your house the best way you know how.
- Speak kindly about all the adults. If your ex-spouse married the Wicked Witch of the West, it’s your job to model respect to her for your children. You will make things infinitely easier on your kids if you do not speak poorly of any of the adults in their life. Who your ex brings around the house isn’t your kids’ choice. Help them make the best of their situation.
- Don’t feel guilty. A lot of times the parent who has more money is made to feel guilty for not buying the extras. Just stick to what was originally agreed upon. No matter what your ex says about you to the kids, remind them there is an agreement in place and you are adhering to it. Tell them it keeps things from being confusing. Don’t worry about what your ex is saying.
- Don’t give up your time with your kids to keep the peace. Even if your kids don’t want to see you, be very firm about spending all your allotted time with them. Trust me, after years of doing counseling with teens, I promise you they feel rejected if you don’t pursue them. They may reject you, but they still want you to want them.
- Don’t force them to love your new family. Yes, they need to be polite and courteous to your new husband or wife. However, they do not have to love that person. Your teenager already has parents. Don’t force your dream of one big, happy, blended family on your children. They probably aren’t going to buy it. In fact, they may resent you for this.
- Keep special time for just you and them. Your child already got the time they see you cut in half. When they do have time with you, make it count. Be sure that sometimes it’s just you and them.
- Model good morals. I know you’re now free to make your own choices. This doesn’t mean your teenager is ready to see you making these choices. When you were married (hopefully) they didn’t see you bring different people home to sleep with, get drunk, or stay out until 2 a.m. They aren’t ready to see this now either.
- Remember this is hard for your kids. Even if they tell you they’re “fine,” and the divorce is good “because it makes you happy,” it’s hard for them. Just keep in mind that they didn’t ask for this. Sometimes they need extra grace and empathy.
Family life isn’t perfect. It can be challenging, joyful, heart-breaking, and fun all in the same day. Be patient, kind, consistent, affectionate and loving. Work at releasing your bitterness so your children don’t become bitter too. Having teens in a divorce situation can be very difficult, but never quit trying.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT