What children need most during and after divorce are actively involved parents.
Divorce is difficult – it’s hard on both parents and children. Parents, often feel guilty about how our divorce impacts our children. Non-residential parents who have less time with the children than the residential parent sometimes fear losing their connection with their child or worse yet, fear losing their child will resist spending time with them. Whether guilt or fear, parents may feel compelled to make it up to their children by showering them with attention, being too lenient, or buying material things. Actually, what children need most during and after divorce are actively involved parents. Parents who not only continue to provide for their day-to-day needs but who also continue to provide structure, discipline and affection. Avoid falling into the trap of being a “Disneyland” parent by following these helpful tips:
- Make frequent contact. Whether in person by attending your child’s events and activities or by phone, email, text or social media. Your child will benefit from knowing that you are interested and involved in all aspects of his/her life – not just during your scheduled parenting time.
- Words and actions are more important than things.
Saying, “I love you,” giving a hug and/or spending quality time with your child are all more important and meaningful than an iPhone, Xbox, or expensive outings. Read together, cook dinner together, involve your child in a favourite hobby or pastime, volunteer at school or with your child’s activities – be present and involved with your child on a consistent and regular basis.
- Take initiative and responsibility. Do not rely on your parenting partner to inform you of school events, sporting activities or other important information about your child. Contact the school directly to ensure you are included in school-parent communications and obtain practice and game schedules for your child’s activities directly from the coach/organization.
- Be a parent and role model, not a friend. Children of all ages need structure and consistency, including good boundaries, reasonable expectations and appropriate discipline. Your job as a parent is to help your children grow and mature into healthy and well-adjusted adults who are capable of among other things holding down a job, entering into long-term relationships be it a friendship or intimate relationship. It is not to entertain, spoil or give the impression that life is fair and that all of your child’s wants and dreams will be fulfilled by someone else.
- Respect your child’s other parent. Establish a business-like relationship, do not make negative comment about the your child’s other parent within his/her range of hearing, encourage and support your child to maintain a loving relationship with his/her other parent, make an effort to occasionally share good memories about your relationship with your child’s other parent or pay him/her a compliment when talking with your child.
If you your parenting partner is acting like a Disneyland parent, you may be able to influence this behaviour by asking yourself what you could do to help ensure your child has a healthy and loving relationship with his/her other parent. It’s as easy as giving your child “permission” to continue to love and respect his/her other parent and avoid feeling as though your love will be lessened if you believe your child loves and enjoys spending time his/her other parent.
Written by: Amber M. Serwat, MA
Amber is a divorce and parenting specialist in private practice in Burnsville, MN – she is also a divorced parent and step-parent of three teenage children, ages 16-13.
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