Raising Kids as a Divorced Parent (Part 2)
Concerns with your ex
Given the fact that the two of you divorced, it’s fair to say you’ve had your share of conflict. Co-parenting is far from easy and many parents find their negative feelings from the marriage and divorce continue to present themselves as they attempt to parent. These are some of the common concerns I hear in regards to your ex.
I feel like I’m competing with my ex-mate.
You have no reason to be in competition – even when it feels like you are. Let your ex be who they are and you be who you are. Know your strengths and what you’ve always brought to the table and continue being that person. Out of guilt, some parents feel they have to buy their kids’ love or overload them with new and exciting toys, tech, and treats.
Do you know what your kids need most right now? They need a safe, constant, and steady parent. They need to know that not everything and everyone is changing. They need reliability. So, be that. Yes, splurge from time to time if you want to. But, if your ex has a brand new gadget every time he/she gets the kids, they’re conditioning your children to expect that from them. Your ex is creating a mess for himself/herself. Know that your kid isn’t going to remember all the “stuff.” Instead, they’ll remember how they could cry with you, talk with you, and how you created a safe space in their life.
My ex parents our kids differently than I do.
Your ex is different from you and chances are, you had to work hard to be on the same page about parenting when you were married. You both probably compromised and blended your styles together. Now that you’re divorced, you’re likely reverting to your own preferences – and so is your ex.
As in all things, it’s important to remember that your way isn’t the only way and it’s not always the “right” or “wrong” way. While it’s much easier to co-parent when you agree on parenting styles, it’s also unlikely that you do agree. Kids learn to adjust to the rules at mom’s house and the rules at dad’s house. It’s similar to the way your children adapt to school policies and practices while there but know that other places like home or grandma’s allow different behaviors or have varying expectations.
When your children come back to you from your ex, consider taking the first few minutes to remind them which home they’re in and help them shift to the different set of expectations. You may even ask them to tell you what the rules are in your home. “Okay, we’re at mommy’s (or daddy’s) house now. How do we speak to one another here? How do we help each other in this house? When is bedtime while you’re here?” A few moments to refocus at the beginning of your custody rotation can do wonders to help kids and their behavior with you.
I worry my ex’s new significant other will replace me.
This is not a pleasant feeling. Watching your former spouse marry someone new is painful enough (even if you are the one who wanted the divorce), but watching your child grow close to the new spouse can be scary and painful too. Even if the new mate is a wonderful person, mommy wants to be the only mommy and daddy wants to know he is the only daddy.
It’s necessary to remember that the step mom or step dad is not the enemy. This person has stepped into a parenting role with your child and needs your support in order to help your child adjust well. If your child can sense dislike and disdain for the step parent, they may mimic those feelings in an effort to support or protect the biological parent. This is sure to create tension and concerns with the step parent and the bio parent married to them. No matter how you feel about your ex or their new mate, you still want a safe and happy home for your child there and need to do what you can to help support that.
Remind your children that you are still their mom or dad and that they only get one person by that title. However, tell them you’re grateful that they have extra adults in their lives to help them grow and learn. Giving your child permission to “like” the step parent may actually relieve a lot of pressure, weight, and unnecessary guilt for your child.