Read Divorced with Children Pt. 1 on the blog.
For Divorced Parents and Those Ministering to Divorced Parents & Their Families
By: Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT
Being the Best Divorced Parent You Can Be:
Realize you cannot do it all:
- Remember that you are one person. You cannot possibly do everything that both parents in a family do. If your former spouse is uninvolved or absent from the lives of the children, find family members and friends who can be role models of the opposite sex for your child. You cannot be both mother and father to your children.
- Solicit and accept help from others. As you do accept help, you are helping to build a support system for your family. Find people who have skills and knowledge that you lack.
- Take advantage of community and church resources.
- Eliminate unnecessary tasks or activities from you and your children’s schedules. Limit your children’s activities to those which they love most. This includes extracurricular activities for your children such as karate, ballet, art classes, little league, soccer, etc.
- Live within the limitations of your income. Economize and only use credit cards for real emergencies. Pay off as many of your outstanding debts as you can.
- Give your children responsibilities around the house that are appropriate for their ages and their abilities. This will help relieve you and give you more time to spend with your children.
- Learn to say “no” to requests from others at work, at church or in organizations that will take away your time with your children.
- Lower your expectations. Remember a healthy, Christian family is more important than an immaculately clean house, a shiny car, the best lawn in the neighborhood, etc.
- Make time for fun with your children.
- Make time for yourself away from the children. If you are with your children 24/7 with no alone time for yourself, you may begin to resent your children and what you “have to do” for them.
- Unless your former spouse is endangering the children in some way, make the time they spend with their other parent a positive and accepted part of their child. They need both parents, whether you get along or not. Don’t speak badly about your ex in front of the children or use them as spies to find out “dirt” on your ex.
Place a high priority on meeting your children’s needs:
- Children need security. Assure your children that you (and your involved ex) plan to be with them for many years to come. Also let them know that there are others who will always be present for them and you.
- Children want to know their needs will be addressed. Let them know they will be cared for. They will always get what they need.
- Children need to feel needed. Explain to them that they are an important part of the family.
- Children sometimes feel guilty. Make sure they know that they are not responsible for the divorce or the changes that continue to follow for your family. When you take out your anger or frustrations on your children, they may feel they are responsible for whatever is going wrong.
- Children need to trust their parent. Always keep your word.
- Children like order and predictably. Establish a schedule and try to stick to it. There is security in knowing that there is a schedule, there is order and the rules of the house still apply.
- Children need to feel they are an important part of the family. Give them chores to do.
- Children need rituals and routines. Establish family traditions not just on holidays and special occasions, but during the rest of the year. Make a big deal of birthdays and family activities. But don’t end up giving them “things” because of your guilt, your need to show your love, or the need to have their approval.
- Children need to express themselves and know that they have been heard. Set up scheduled times for communicating with them. Family meals at the dining room table can be a stabilizing factor for your family.
- When it is appropriate, ask for their opinions and suggestions on family decisions.
- Set up a family communications center (cork board or dry erase marker board).
- Children need role models. Being strong for the children is not as important as providing them with role models of how Christian adults deal with life situations (good and bad).
SUCCESSFUL DIVORCED PARENTS:
- Accept the responsibilities and challenges of single parenting without being overwhelmed by its challenges. They seek solutions rather than complain.
- Are committed to their families. They try to be the best parent they can be by placing the needs of their children first.
- Foster open communications with their children. Their children feel safe to talk about any topic or emotion without the fear of being judged or ridiculed.
- Strive to be as organized and dependable as they can be for their children.
- Take time to take care of themselves. They understand that they need to be healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually in order to be good single parents.
- Maintain the family traditions as best as they can. They understand that traditions give their children security and meaning in tough times.
- Have a positive attitude toward parenting and life in general.
KIDWorks is a free support group program for children ages five to eighteen that are experiencing the divorce of their parents. At KIDWorks we believe that children need special help to overcome the losses and changes in their life due to a divorce and that honoring that healing process is a necessary component to maintaining healthy relationships in the future.