Parenting is a tough enough job when you have the love and support of the other parent. However, parenting after divorce most definitely makes the job even tougher. Divorce creates new challenges that will inevitably affect the children and the way you parent. You are suddenly faced with supporting yourself and your children on one income, you may need to find a new place to live and your children are now out of your control for part of the time. The stress can seem unbearable, but it does get easier with time.
Essentially, good parenting is good parenting, whether you are married or not. As the parent, you are responsible for raising these little humans into well-adjusted beings in the midst of co-parenting chaos and joint custody hardships.
So exactly how do you parent effectively after divorce to ensure that the best interest of the children are met?
Communication is Key
One of the most important tips anyone can ever give to a parent is to keep communication open with the children and the other parent. Obviously the children’s ages will come into play on how and what you tell them, but it is imperative that you talk to the children about the changes that will happen.
Likewise, keeping your ex-partner in the loop will save misunderstandings and possibly curb hostilities. At one point, we’ll assume that the two of you talked things out and came to decisions together. This should not stop just because you are no longer in the relationship. The best interest of the children are best met when you have open communication. Be sure to discuss concerns with your co-parent.
It is very tempting to be the “fun” parent when you only see your children on weekends. However, children need structure in both households. So-called weekend dads/moms are still responsible for teaching children responsibility. Be sure that children have age appropriate chores in each household and ensure that homework and other school projects are completed if the children are in your care at the time. This practice also helps alleviate the stress and potential animosity felt by the custodial parent.
Be Present Physically and Emotionally
This seems obvious, but is still worth mentioning. When you have the children, spend time with them. Be there for them both physically and emotionally. Do things with them. If money is tight, find free or cheap things that will keep them entertained and help your bonding process. Most cities have low cost events. Make a call a find a few. Parks are free and fun for young children. The most important thing is to be completely available for your children.
Build a Support Group
It really does take a village to raise a child! If you are lucky enough to have family and friends nearby, encourage their support and enlist their help if needed. If family and friends live too far away, get involved in groups that include other children and make connections with the other parents. Whether married or divorced, parenting requires support. Don’t be afraid to ask for it.
As a divorced parent, you will be inundated with tips and advice for raising your children. Some of these tips will be good and helpful, like “don’t bad mouth the other parent” or “keep your love life separate from the children until the relationship is serious,” but each situation is different and each co-parenting team will handle things in their own way. Remember to keep the children’s interest in the forefront and things will likely work out in the end. Love, consistency and mutual respect will help turn children of divorce into well-adjusted adults.
About the Author
Scott Morgan is a board certified family law attorney in Texas and founder of the Morgan Law Firm. The firm has offices in various locations in Texas including their Austin divorce office and the new Sugar Land divorce office.