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You Marriage Ended But Your Parenting Job has Not!

Regardless of the status of your marriage, children need firm yet loving discipline. 

Parenting after your marriage ends can be difficult, as many parents are still processing their own emotions regarding the end of their relationship; anger, sadness, hostility, regret, however, it can be easy to overcompensate for these emotions by overindulging your children- by trying to buy their love. Your children are intelligent and emotional beings as well, and in seeing you act in this way, they may try to manipulate the situation to their advantage. 

It is your job as a parent to take responsibility for what happens next. You must still meet their needs in a way that is healthy and appropriate for what all of you are going through. 

Own Your Emotions, Don’t Let Them Own You.

Following your divorce, you may have some extreme thoughts and feelings about your ex. Taking charge of your emotions is not dismissing what you are going through, but rather taking responsibility for your reactions. The primary task during the difficult and emotional time after divorce is to parent in the best possible way you can while your child is with you. Focus on your parenting and work to make improvements on how you are spending your time and investing in your children. This is not the time to blame the other parent or create divisions. This will show your children that you love them, assist in creating the stability that they desperately need, and whether you see it or not, it can make strides in co-parenting with your ex. 

Improve Your Relationship with Discipline and Love:

Children can be deeply affected in divorce and they may have insecurities about their relationship with both parents in the wake of the divorce. Children may worry that your relationship with them could end as well. Structure, rules, consequences and routine in post-divorce life are so important, especially in the months following a divorce. By disciplining your children in a healthy and consistent way, in love, you are showing them that you love them and are providing them reliable and consistent responses to their behavior. Older children can be involved in a discussion about what consequences are reasonable to certain behaviors. Taking a step back from your own emotions, which are likely heightened in this time, and giving your children affirmation, love, positive attention can reduce the need for discipline, as well. 

Be The Parent Before Being the Friend  It's common for a parent to befriend a child during divorce. This can make enforcing set consequences or disciplining children extremely difficult. Another common mistake parents make during this time is to treat your children as your confidant – which allows them access to more information about your life than they can handle. This is an unnecessary burden for your children. At this point, your child needs a parent now more than ever before. You must set rules and enforce them, make sure that you are a safe place for open dialogue when they have big emotions or big questions. Unloading your emotional burden on your children will have lasting negative impacts on them. 

Your Children Will Try to Blackmail You but Don’t Let Them. 

Children are smart.  Once they start to grasp the reality of spending time in two homes on a regular basis, it is easy for them to pit one parent against the other. Your child might inadvertently or intentionally do this: encourage communication between you and your spouse in the hopes of reconciliation, however, your child can also take a very different approach, demanding things from each of you. In a divorce situation, parents often are competitive with each other and cave in to the child's demands. It is a real concern of many parents, that the child will love one parent more than the other. Remember, your child will come to respect you if you set limits.

Ignore Criticisms From the Other Parent. Tensions are High.

It is common for hostility and anger from the divorce to carry over into the co-parenting relationship. If you are receiving criticism from your ex, it is easy to quickly react and dismiss the comments. The best thing to do is first, do some soul searching. Does the criticism have any basis in reality? If so, take steps to address those concerns in a reasonable way. If not, ignore baseless criticism. Examples of valid questions that may come across as hostile criticism may include: keeping bedtime consistent, providing nutritious meals between the households, who the children are interacting with on a regular basis. Incessant criticism that has no validity needs to be ignored. If problems persist and communication is hostile, it may be necessary to use a parenting application in order to facilitate communication. 

Flexibility is Key

Your child must adapt and comply with two homes after divorce - no easy task. You can help your child by being flexible in your demands from the child - and your ex. It is nearly impossible to have a single set of rules between both households. Your children may struggle with having a sense of direction or wholeness. It is absolutely in their best interest to be as flexible as you can in accommodating different routines, special outings, and requests from the other parent. 

Remember, you can do this. Your children will respect you for creating an environment that is reliable, stable and consistent. They will thrive when you can keep your emotional responses in check and allow them to be children as long as possible, ensuring that you do not overshare or try to buy their love in an attempt to create more division.