Key points on parenting to remember when you go through divorce or custody proceedings.
- Keep your divorce between you and your estranged spouse. Your children need to understand you are not divorcing them and not be involved in the adult conflicts. Stay connected, whether the children live with you most of the time or with their other parent.
- There is no such thing as being a part-time parent. You are a parent or you are not. It’s not the quantity of time you spend with your children, it is the quality of time. Commit to it regularly, responsibly, and you are a parent.
- You are not a babysitter who keeps children entertained during every moment. No need for expensive gifts or trips, the only hole they have that needs filling is time spent with you. Be there, listen to them, talk to them, and help them through whatever is happening to them that week.
- Don’t be scared you won’t know what to do, listen to the inner parent in yourself to know when it’s okay to let a child stay up late or to be stern on undesirable behavior. Here’s your opportunity to be the best parent you want to be without the stresses of a dysfunctional marriage.
- Two homes, possibly two sets of rules. Children are adaptable. They transition from home rules to school rules and can just as easily adapt to Dad’s rules and Mom’s rules. They will test this, hold your ground.
- Be silly, be smart. Your children want to see you having fun with them, not on the sidelines on your phone. It can be as simple as cart races in the grocery store, racing up the stairs, who can finish their milk first, movies, bowling, hiking or cartoons in Pjs time, or even reading some of their books and discussing them. Find those things you honestly enjoy doing with your children.
- Don’t start booking therapy sessions based on what you Google. The children and you may work through this just fine if everyone is allowed to express their feelings. Not always the case, but know that each of you will make mistakes and it’s okay, you can work through it and no one needs be scared for life. If you need a therapist, ask your primary care physician or your divorce attorney for a few good recommendations.
- You are not alone. There are support groups, playdate groups, and numerous resources if you want to meet up with other divorced/single parents and their children. Talk to the other parents while at sports practices/games, check with the school your child attends. Sometimes it’s good to know that incidents like toothpaste in the hair, aversions to green foods, and the desire to wear mismatched clothes are not unique to your children.