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When Life Gets Messy: Parenting After Divorce

12 Aug, 2013

by ChristianWorks

By Laura Petherbridge

Life as a single parent can be exhausting, frustrating, and fearful. However, it is possible to survive and even thrive when parenting alone. It takes work, a willingness to change destructive patterns, and a teachable spirit.

After a divorce a child typically becomes as emotionally stable as the parent. This is true even if only one parent is working on the process. Therefore, the first step towards creating an established, productive and peaceful single parent home is for at least one parent to obtain information on how to successfully move forward. This will require a willingness to recognize and heal from anger, vengeance, grief, and past wounds.

Attending an event where he or she can obtain tools, resources, and the support of other single parents is one of the wisest and most beneficial ways to succeed.

Q: My 11-year-old son came home from soccer practice the other night and cried all evening. After much prodding he finally told me that he was sad and angry that his dad doesn’t come to his games or participate like the other dads. I’ve begged my ex-husband to attend but he won’t make the effort.

A: Unfortunately you can’t control the poor choices of your ex-husband. What you can do is validate your son’s feelings of rejection using words such as, “I’m so sorry you are hurting, I know this is hard for you. I feel very badly that your dad didn’t show up.” Don’t minimize the painful loss he is experiencing.

In addition you should avoid the strong temptation to criticize his father. It might temporarily make you feel better, but it won’t help your son. Address the behavior not the person, “I know it hurts when your dad isn’t there.”

Ask the pastor or leaders at your church if they know of someone who might be interested in mentoring your son. Many men would be willing to give their time if they knew of the need. If the man is married make certain his wife agrees with the situation.  It would be wise to remain distant from the relationship between your son and his mentor; it’s enticing to become attracted to someone who is treating your son with kindness.

Q: To discredit me, my ex wife tells our son terrible lies. She says I was physically abusive to her, I don’t pay child support and that I don’t really love him. I see my son weekly, as my visitation allows, but I’m distraught that my child may believe her deception.  

Kids see truth. They aren’t as gullible, dense or naïve as we often think. And although they will protect a parent, even in bad circumstances, they have radar that tells them “something isn’t right”.  They tuck all these inconsistencies in their brain for future reference.

You cannot change or control your ex wife, but you can show him by example your true character. Resist the temptation to criticize her, instead focus on your son’s pain. Depending on his age you could look at him and say,  “ I’m so sorry your mom told you that I don’t love you. That must really hurt to hear those words. I truly do love you____ (name). You are more precious to me than anything. And ___(name) you need to know that I never hit your mommy, and I do pay child support to help her raise you. If it would make you feel better to see the check, always know that you can ask me at any time and I’ll show them to you.”

Use the child’s name often. People love to be called by their name. Then reminisce about a special time such as his birth and how you felt when you first saw him or held him; or when he first started to walk or talk and how proud you were of him. Make it real to him.

The absolute proof of your affection is revealed in making time for your son. Children spell love in one word…T-I-M-E. Even when you don’t see results continue to remain the godly, stable parent and don’t give up.

My stepson Todd, now an adult, shared how he remembers when his dad would drive hours to attend his middle school basketball games, even though Todd spent the majority of the time on the bench! The fact that his dad cared enough to give his most precious possession — time —communicated love to his son.

I know of a dad whose daughter shunned him for many years because of the mother’s lies. It wasn’t easy, and it took time for the child to see who was telling the truth, but they have a great relationship now. Eventually truth will win over the lies.

“So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.”  Galatians 6:9(NLT)

Q: My ex-wife wastes the child support payments that I send on frivolous stuff for herself while my kids are eating macaroni and cheese every night for dinner, and wearing worn out clothes to school. I’m considering stopping the payments and using that money to buy my children the things they need.  Doesn’t this seem like the wise thing to do?

This might seem like a logical solution, however unless it’s written that way in your divorce agreement, it’s not a legal option. Let me ask you these questions: Is she paying for their housing? Is she providing the utilities like electricity, and water for their home? Does she supply the basic toiletries such as toothpaste, band-aids, cough medicine, etc? A possible solution is for you to add up the things she does provide, and view your support going towards those items.

This doesn’t imply she shouldn’t be serving nutritious food, or meeting the children’s basic needs. The reality is you must review what things you can control and what you can’t. Letting go of the things over which you have no control, even those that are hurting your children, is one of the challenging issues in divorce.

I know many men who have paid for things that were not addressed in the divorce agreement (dental braces, piano lessons, baseball camp, speech therapy) because they felt it was an essential benefit to their kids. Whenever possible paying those things directly to the provider can help avoid conflict.

Q: I’ve been out of the work force for 15 years as a stay-at-home mom. Since my husband left I’ve begun looking for work. I’m shocked at how low the wages are and I sense my skills are outdated. What am I to do? 

A: First, don’t panic there are solutions. If your technology or computer skills are void or limited research a local community college for courses that will give you the basics. Today almost any job will require some computer knowledge. This will help you to feel more equipped for the new endeavor, and assist you with the computer “lingo” that can be intimidating.

Second, be prepared to take a lower paying job to get your “foot in the door”. An excellent work ethic, showing up on time, character and honesty, and being a team player often mean more to a supervisor than experience. Once they see your positive outlook and your willingness to learn new skills, you will become a valuable employee.

When I was an office manager the biggest problems I dealt with were employees who constantly called in sick, stirred up trouble and had a miserable attitude.


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