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5 Tips to Parenting after divorce on Your Own Terms

We hear people often say divorce ruin the family and damage the children. Whether you are recently divorced or have been for some time like me, don’t worry that you have ruined your child’s life. You haven’t. While divorce can be a big part of your child’s life, what will determine your child's ultimate quality of life is still in the hands of each parent. Can children be affected negatively by their parent’s divorce? Does divorce lead to behavior problems in kids? Certainly. But it’s important to understand that children are not necessarily doomed because of a divorce. There’s plenty you can do as a parent to make this difficult time easier. Below are 5 tips you can use to help you handle the everyday issues that may arise with parenting after divorce.

1. Manage Your Child’s Transition Between Homes

Divorce is hard on kids and it is harder on some kids especially those of middle and high school age. Some kids have difficulty transitioning back and forth between homes each week. On the day they arrive home, they might act out by throwing tantrums, having outbursts, or by shutting down and refusing to speak. They might be doing it to test you to see if you are steady. They may have kept it together with the other parent and now are letting loose with you. They may be expressing their anger at the disruption in their lives and their wish for you to be back together as a family. Sometimes they may blame you for the divorce. And sometimes kids will be a problem on purpose because they hope their parents will get together around this “difficult child." Be patient and be empathetic to the feelings driving these behaviors. Your children are being impacted by something they don’t have control over and probably didn’t want. Understanding and hearing them out is key to helping them cope with this new norm.

2. Understand Your Child May Act Out

It is not unusual for kids to act out due to divorce. I always advised parents to seek professional help for the kids, providing an emotional outlet for them to talk about their feelings. Some kids act out right after a divorce in an attempt to push you to be strong. If your child is acting out, it helps to understand that their behavior might be coming from their anxiety about the divorce. They may feel out of control. They may feel angry, sad, or scared about the unwanted changes in their life and sometimes they may feel like they are the ones to blame for the divorce. As a parent you can empathize and understand where these behaviors might be coming from, but you don’t have to put up with them. Let your child know that it will be most helpful to be more cooperative and not give you a hard time. Then set limits and follow through with consequences consistently.

3. Don’t Forego Consequences Out of Guilt

Many kids act out and misbehave due to the stress and anxiety of their parents’ divorce. As a result, many parents feel guilty about what what they have done to their child's life and simply skip giving consequences guilty when the child misbehave altogether. Blaming themselves for their child’s behavior. Although the feelings of guilt are understandable and expected, skipping consequences doesn’t help the child it does the opposite. Effective consequences teach your child how to manage their feelings appropriately, and they need these skills now more than ever. The best thing you can do for your child after your divorce is to be consistent. Yes, be empathetic to your child but set limits and rules for them to follow and enforce them. They need now more than ever.

4. It’s Okay to Parent Differently From Your Ex

One of the reasons you got divorced was because you and your ex disagreed on most things. Being divorced is not going to make that any easier, in fact it might get worse until it gets better. The good news is that your ex cannot tell you what to do when you have the kids. Unless there is a case of abuse, you can’t tell him how to parent the children either. When the kids are with you, you are the only one in charge. The y is to make sure you have a set of rules and enforce those rules. Expect your child to follow your house’s rules, and don’t worry about what is going on in your ex’s home. I used to drive myself crazy when my kids would tell me their dad let them stay up really late watch TV, when they were with him. Now, I simply nod and say "I am glad you had fun with dad." I had to accept that we are two different type of parents and I had no control over what's happening at his house, there was no need to stress my self out over it.

5. Disengage When Your Ex Complains About Your Parenting Style

The reason why you are your ex did not work out is because you did not agree on things. Unfortunately, being divorce does not change that fact. There will always be disagreements between you two and if you guys are both willing over time with much work co parenting will become easier. In the mean time, if you find yourself in a tug of war with your ex simply disengage. It is a challenging thing to do, I struggle with hat sometimes. Just try your best and over time you will get better at it. If he complains about your parenting style simply respond with a "thank you for your input but I am handling it." Don’t engage in any more conversations about this topic. And don’t let your ex drag you down into a fight. Because it doesn't benefit you or the kids.

Remember, parenting hard work and it is even harder for single parents. Try your best not to engage in petty arguments with your ex, take the high road whenever you can. Do not to put too much pressure on yourself. Do your best and trust that everything will work out for the best in the end.

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