In a previous post today there was a mention of a Tip Sheet for Parenting through Divorce and one astute blog reader noticed and asked about it . . . and so here it is. It’s also excerpted from the book “How to Listen so Parents will Talk and Talk so Parents will Listen.”
Ten Tips for Parenting through Divorce
To parent well through divorce and into the future, you should educate yourself about the unique challenges you’re likely to face and how to manage them. The following short list is a beginning. Additional resources are listed in Appendix A.
1. Make a commitment to good self-care. There are two big reasons why this is good advice. First, divorce is emotionally painful and stressful. If you don’t take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually, you may suffer. Second, if you’re suffering, your children will suffer right along with you.
2. Cultivate a support system for your children. You can’t do it all. Therefore, when you’re feeling exhausted your children will need other healthy adults with whom they can spend time. Identify who these adults are and ask them for help and support.
3. Listen to your children, even when it’s hard. Your children may or may not want to talk about the divorce or their feelings. In most cases, they’ll suddenly become angry, irritable, or sad and possibly direct those feelings at you. If so, listen and comfort, even if what they’re saying is hard to hear.
4. Set limits for your children. Sometimes during and after a divorce parents will start letting their children do whatever they want. This isn’t healthy. Children need limits; they need you to be a firm and loving parent.
5. Work on communicating respectfully with your child’s other parent. Practice positive communication skills. It can also help to change your language and not call your former spouse, “My ex,” but instead, “My daughter’s father” or “My son’s mother.” See Ricci’s book, Mom’s house, Dad’s house, for more information on this.
6. Develop smooth transitions from one home to another. Child exchanges can be traumatic for everyone. Having a regular and positive routine when you get your children ready to go to their other home can help. Also, avoid conflicts with the other parent during child exchanges. Exposing your child to parent–parent conflict is very unhealthy. Consider finding an outside person to help you establish a positive exchange.
7. Set limits with your child’s other parent. Consider establishing guidelines for parent–parent meetings. Don’t meet for long hours alone or make yourself spontaneously available anytime the other parent wants to talk. Instead, set up official meetings at a safe and pleasant (but not intimate) location.
8. Educate yourself. Consider taking a class or reading a book or watching an educational DVD on divorce and shared parenting.
9. Educate yourself II. Consult with legal and mental-health professionals as appropriate. Neither legal or mental health professionals should be used in an effort to manipulate or punish the other parent or the children.
10. Embark on a healthy new life. Give your child’s mom or dad privacy and maintain your own. Encourage your children to have good times with the other parent (never make your children feel guilty about having a good time with their mom or dad). Establish new family rituals to help you and your children adjust to your new lives.