Raising Kids as a Divorced Parent (Part 3)
Concerns with family
Divorces change family dynamics – in your home and with extended family. Learning a new normal and being intentional about maintaining important relationships can help your kids adjust. Here are two common concerns I hear from parents in regards to their new family dynamics.
I’m worried my side of the family will take a backseat.
Divorces don’t just impact parents and kids. The ripple effect impacts extended family and friends too. Just as custody agreements have cut back on the number of days you have your kids, it also limits the number of days grandparents, aunts, and uncles can see them too. Rotating holidays may mean that Christmas morning at Grandma’s house doesn’t happen anymore or annually as it did before.
To keep your family regularly involved, you’ll have to plan and schedule time with them. One of my clients shared that his ex moved in with her mother and now the children are with the ex mother in law as often as they are with the mother. While the kids enjoy grandparent time, it’s changed the influence and dynamic of the grandparent/grandchild relationship on his ex’s side and has left his own mother feeling left out (since she sees them significantly less than the grandparent with whom the kids live part time). To keep his mother involved as the other grandma, he schedules brunch for his mother and his children every other Sunday.
Try your best to keep the family (and extended family) holiday traditions as best you can, but ask your family to show some flexibility and grace as you and your kids move through these family changes.
I’m having to play dual roles.
When you go from two parents in one home to one parent in each of two homes, roles change. Dads who have never combed a little girl’s hair are suddenly having to learn to braid their daughter’s hair or buy tampons. Moms are mowing the lawn and teaching sons to shave. It’s inevitable that you’ll have to learn to answer questions and play roles you’ve never played before. Preconceived mother/father gender roles may not look the same anymore and you’ll have to give yourself grace as you learn new things.
However, you do not have to do it all. If you’re co-parenting, try to incorporate the other parent in their familiar role with the kids as much as possible. Meaning, if you would’ve encouraged mom to talk with the daughter about personal hygiene when you were married, continue to do so. If you would’ve had dad attend the father/son social at school, encourage dad to go. It’s not that you are incapable, but rather you’re encouraging the bond between your child and your ex to continue to grow and strengthen.
If you need the help and influence of the opposite gender for your child and the other biological parent is not involved or not cooperating, enlist the help of aunts, uncles, or trusted family friends. One of my clients admits she knew nothing about buying a jockstrap for her son for football practice and her ex husband was out of the picture. So, she called her brother to take her son shopping for this masculine item. The son wasn’t embarrassed by his mother taking him to shop for this and the uncle got some quality time and deepened his relationship with his nephew.