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New Year's Resolutions for Divorced Parents
The new year is upon us and divorced parents may be considering their New Year's resolutions. Being a single parent or co-parent is hard, but identifying a few key areas that could be improved will help both the parent and child(ren).
Avoid common mistakes
If you know the common mistakes made by divorced parents, you may be able to avoid them. Frequent errors include:
- Turning your children into messengers: Communicating with your ex through your kids is stressful for them. Essentially, it is forcing them to try to negotiate a situation that you were unable to handle. Use email if your conversations with your ex always result in arguments and hurt feelings.
- Using an older child as a sounding board: Teenagers may seem grown up, but sharing your feelings about their other parent puts them in a terrible position and may make them feel as if they are a parent.
- Grilling your child about the other parent: Be interested in your child's experiences while visiting the other parent, but do not ask for lots of details about how your ex is living and whether there's a new significant other. You'll find out these things eventually anyway.
Focus on things you can do
Although there are a few things you should not do as a single parent, there are many positive steps you can take to improve your parenting, and some of them are listed here:
- If you have made mistakes, apologize: Let your children or your ex know that you wish you had done something differently or better. Children are very understanding, and even if your ex is not, you will feel better for taking the high road.
- Do not argue in front of your child. Because you and your ex do not see eye to eye, it is probably not unusual to have disagreements when you see each. Unfortunately, you tend to see each other when your child is around. Seeing parents argue has a negative effect on children. Instead of understanding that the argument is about something adult, children tend to assume it is somehow their fault.
- Be businesslike with your ex: Your relationship is now primarily contractual - child support, alimony and co-parenting. Try to keep your anger out of it.
- Ask or suggest; do not demand: If your spouse is doing something that you believe is detrimental to the children, ask him or her to change in a non-confrontational way. For example, "Have you tried to get them to do their homework by making a game of it? That has worked for me." This can be more productive than simply lashing out at your ex for yelling at the kids to do their homework.
- Train yourself not to overreact: You will be dealing with your ex until the children are grown up and beyond. The sooner you can shrug off attempts to push your buttons, the easier your life - and that of your children - will be.
- Keep conversations focused on the kids: The kids are the only reason you are talking anyway, so keep things focused on their needs and best interests rather than on your needs.
- Find other parents who are in similar situations: Being a newly single parent can be very isolating. Try to find other people who know what you're going through.
- Be specific: Assign household chores, develop schedules and agree on precise pickup times. When everybody, including the children, knows what they are supposed to be doing, there is one less area of ambiguity that can lead to arguments.
Whichever resolutions you adopt, be sure your kids know that you are trying, that you understand that the road may be bumpy, and that the pain and confusion they are experiencing will ultimately subside. Although a divorce is not usually about the children, it certainly affects them profoundly. Being the best parent you can after your divorce is the best gift you can give your kids. Thoughtful, aware choices on how best to support and heal yourself and your children are tools you can use to make it through this oft-grueling process. There are gifts to divorce if you do not let its stigma overshadow them. Put them in the sun, water them, and watch them grow.
For more information, check out www.BretteSember.com and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/candace-walsh/parent-better-after-divor_b_805336.html#s221776&title=Embark_on_a