Parenting. . .after Divorce
“While marriages may be discontinued, families continue. . . with the focus on the two ex-spouse parents now located in separate households—two nuclei to which children and parents alike . . .must relate.”
The Psychology of Divorce by David Saposnek, Ph.D.
If you are contemplating divorce, your biggest challenge may be figuring out how to create these two nuclei. Then, how to relate to each other.
The transition from intact family to single parenting often proves overwhelming. At The Resolution Center, we find that normalizing a few realities helps parents cope.
First, you must come to terms with the reality of two separate nuclei.
No matter how troubled your marriage has been, chances are you both relied on each other in key ways.
The move to single parenting often proves a harsh awakening. You will likely discover that the other person contributed–even if you didn’t recognize it at the time. Many parents struggle with feeling completely alone.
Even harder—some parents learn that much of their own parenting was in reaction to the other. The overly indulgent dad relied on mom to set the boundaries. Mom became harsher to counteract the chaos of his indulgence. Which caused him to indulge more.
As these parents move into separate nuclei, they come to value the role the other played. And wonder how they can fill the gap.
Recognizing this dynamic will help you understand some of the frustration you might experience. Then, you can consciously address the void.
Children benefit most when their different homes offer consistent rules and routines.
People are creatures of habit. If your children know the evening routine involves homework then supper then bath then bedtime story then bed—no matter which house they are in—they know how to act. They automatically shift from finishing supper to finding pajamas for their bath. Everyone benefits from the predictability.
At the same time, there will be differences between homes. And, that can be good.
While children of divorce are rarely at an advantage over children of intact homes—this can be one area where they are.
As your children learn to navigate the differences between their homes, they develop an adaptability and proactive mindset they will take into the rest of life.
This works best when children are equipped and allowed to have a voice in each of their homes.
Whenever possible, include your children in decisions. Let them choose the paint colors for their bedrooms or where to put the dishes in the new house. Including children helps them feel they belong.
Older children can contribute to creating house rules and routines. While parents remain the ultimate authority, your children will offer keen insights into what they want home to be like.
You can then use these preferences to create family “contracts”—agreements that shape life in the home.
When Parents Can’t Agree
The greatest struggles come when the one parent completely disregards the values and priorities of the other—creating a home the other parent sees as unhealthy.
For the concerned parent, the best option is to acknowledge the differences and focus on equipping their children to move between homes.
Judy Cocoran and Julie Ross, in their book Joint Custody with a Jerk, offer clear insights on how you can equip your children to face these situations.
They suggest that you can offer:
- Phrases to say–i.e. to a parent who screams in anger, “Please don’t yell at me—I can listen better if you talk.
- Coping strategies for behaviors—i.e. retreating to their room if dad turns on porn or mom and boyfriend become intimate in the living room.
- Ways to connect with a disconnected parent—conversation starters, doing chores around the house for the parent, and using simple manners to build rapport.
As the concerned parent offers coping strategies to their child, they build health . . .at both houses.
Raising children is tough. Raising children alone is even tougher. Wherever parents join each other—even from separate nuclei—they shape a better life for each other and their children.
If you would like more information on building healthy families, even through and after divorce, call The Resolution Center at 317-344-9740 or email info@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com.