Without a doubt your kids have probably been through more than their fair share of changes since you’ve split up with your ex.
They may have had to change schools, say goodbye to their friends, adjust to a parent going back to work, different ways of celebrating special events, a parent dating or blending into new stepfamily. For many children there are big financial changes too, like moving out of the only home they’ve ever known to a smaller home or apartment, or having to miss out on activities like playing soccer or taking piano lessons because money is tight.
Schedules are different, routines have changed, and even if things are better, they probably really miss having both their parents under the same roof.
All these changes have been hard on you, and they’ve been hard on your kids, too.
For that reason, you probably spend a lot of time trying to figure out what you should or could be doing to make things better for them.
You tell them you love them. You listen to their feelings and do your best to reassure them that everything will be okay and that they’re safe.
You try to be there for them as much as possible, physically and emotionally.
Maybe guilt gets the best of you from time to time and you give in more than you should when they want a new toy, or ask to spend an extra half an hour watching videos before bedtime. You’ve even slacked off on discipline. When they get in trouble you lay down the law only to back way off because you know how much they’re hurting.
One of the hardest parts of being a parent is seeing your kids hurt. When they’re hurting it’s only natural to want to make it better.
While your heart is absolutely in the right place, what you may not realize, is making it better for your kids now may be making things a whole lot worse later.
Not sure what you should or shouldn’t be doing? Here are a few ideas worth considering.
In my 20 years of experience as a parent educator and divorce coach, a child of divorce, and a bonus mom, I can tell you that what you DON’T DO can sometimes be just as important as what you DO for your kids.
As soon as those beautiful babies come into the world, it’s only natural to want to give them the very best you have to offer. You do your best to provide a safe and happy home, send them to the best schools, and plan special things to do as a family.
Even when you’re trying to do your best, divorce is a total gamechanger. When you feel overwhelmed and stressed out, things can slip by you, things that sometimes make it much harder and more stressful for your kids.
To keep yourself on the straight and narrow, consider adopting the following 6 agreements for yourself, and for your kids:
There’s some tough stuff regarding the divorce that you and your kids should probably be talking about. Truth is, you worry about making things worse for them. What if you say the wrong thing or don’t know how to answer their questions? So instead of saying something, you end up saying nothing.
Your silence makes your kids wonder if it’s okay to talk about it. They may worry that what happened is their fault. They may make up their own story, which is probably out in left field from the truth.
The parent in you wants to protect them, to make the hurt and upset stop. The rational part of you knows you can’t and that keeping them in the dark isn’t helping either.
Tell them it’s okay to talk and ask questions. Do your best to talk about the elephant in the room and speak the hard truth.
Deep down you know that your kids are wiser and stronger than you think. The truth, spoken in an age-appropriate way and without exposing them to “adult issues,” will lessen their confusion and worry.
A lot of times you feel stuck but don’t reach out for help. You’ve convinced yourself if you just dig deep and keep your head down, you can get through this on your own.
The problem is, it doesn’t always work. There are times when you feel exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed, and sometimes even resentful of your situation. When this happens, you can’t be the parent your kids need you to be. So, you try harder. This usually leads to you feeling really guilty and beating yourself up for not doing better.
You often pay more attention to putting out fires and checking off to-do lists than whether you’re eating, sleeping, or getting a break once in a while.
However, realize that if you don’t make it, your children won’t either.
Promise to do a better job of taking care of yourself. Not only will it allow you to be a better parent, but maybe it will help your children set the bar a little higher for themselves someday.
Children should never have to pick sides or feel conflicted about loving both parents. They don’t want to be caught in the middle of your problems with each other.
What you see and feel about the other parent is your truth, not theirs.
And yet, sometimes feelings and memories from the past can get the best of you. Remember this: you can be two good people who didn’t make a good couple together. That doesn’t mean you can’t be good parents apart.
Do your best to separate your feelings about your marriage from your children’s needs to have a positive and loving relationship with both of you. Be supportive of the other parent’s role in their lives and their home with them. Remember you will always be the only parents your children will ever have. Focus on creating a cooperative relationship with your ex for the sake of your children.
It’s hard to share time with your kids. You may resent not being the parent who gets to see the first time your child rides a bike, scores a goal, wins the science fair, or goes to the prom. You want to be there for ALL of it and it sucks that you can’t.
When you feel like you’re missing out, it doesn’t take much to get protective of “your time” with the kids and keeping things fair. You forget that what feels fair to you, may not feel so great for your kids.
When you get caught up in keeping score, sadly your kids do too. Even though they don’t talk about it, they worry about keeping things the same between the two of you. That’s not a burden they should bear.
Instead of dividing up the minutes and hours of their lives, do your best to be flexible. Work harder to create memories with your children that will last a lifetime and remind yourself that “when” something happens isn’t nearly as important as “what” happens.
When you and the other parent hit a bump in the road or don’t agree, it’s easy to dig in your heels or get over-focused on being right. When you’re in “my way or the highway” mode, you can have a difficult time seeing beyond what’s right in front of you and taking in the big picture.
Truth is, most things don’t matter as much as we think. When you take a step back, most of the problems we lose sleep over are actually quite small.
When things go pear-shaped, try to give yourself some perspective by asking, “What difference will this make one month from now? How about six months or a year?” You may find the answer to be: not much.
There are times you may see glimpses of your ex in your kids, and not always in a good way. When their room is a mess you might have slipped up and said, “You never pick up after yourself, you’re just like your dad,” or when they’ve pushed back on a rule you might have shot back with, “You’re just as bull-headed as your mom.”
When parents split or get divorced, the blinders go on. You get caught up in all the negative, petty stuff you don’t like about each other. Bad trumps good, negative wins out over positive. But where does that leave your kids? Remember, kids think of themselves as half mom and half dad, which is the way it should be. How can they feel good about who they are when the people they identify with the most have nothing positive to say about one another?
Everyone (including parents) have things that are really great about them and some things that are not so great. Put more energy into pointing out all the great ways your kids are like you both.
How you relate to each other means everything to your kids. Do your best to make the love you have for them be greater than your need to be right, proud, or in control.
It won’t always be easy. Sometimes you’ll slip up and say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing. It’s okay, you’re only human. No parent gets it right all the time.
The good news is, doing the right thing all the time isn’t a huge deal. In fact, small, simple shifts can make a world of difference for you and your kids.
It’s easier when you have expert guidance, how-to’s, and support…
You may not know the best way to STOP doing some things.
In fact, after reading about how important it is to STOP keeping score or making negative comparisons, you may be sitting there thinking, “Well, Christina, great philosophy but you don’t know my ex. I can’t even talk to him or her without an argument. It’s either my way or the highway with them.”
You may also be wondering how you can take care of yourself when you feel frazzled and overwhelmed most of the time and doing something for you is just ONE MORE THING on the list.
Or how are you supposed to talk to your kids about your split or divorce in way they’ll understand, especially if they ask “why?”
And what if your ex is being difficult, or irrational, and putting your kids in the middle? How do you handle that?
All great questions.
That’s why I created my video program, Co-Parenting With Purpose: How to Raise Happy, Secure and Resilient Kids After You’ve Split Up, to answer your most pressing questions, address your biggest challenges, and resolve your concerns about co-parenting.
In this program, you’ll get tools, tips, and advice on how to manage co-parenting with your ex, so you can keep your cool and make sound decisions for your kids, even if your ex is being unreasonable.
You’ll get valuable self-care tips that won’t take more than 15 minutes a day and will make your life less stressful and allow you to be the calm, centered, present parent your kids NEED you to be.
And you’ll get practical, real-world advice on how to talk to your kids about your split—what to say and what not to say—in order to alleviate their worries and confusion in an age-appropriate way without drawing them into “adult issues.”
You can start watching now and go at your own pace with the information.Real-World Advice On Co-Parenting
I made this program as an affordable alternative because I get how incredibly stressful it is to go from 2 incomes to 1, AND have to handle all these challenges as they arise.
I know you’ll love it and find it super valuable. And I know your children are going to benefit from everything you’ll discover in the program.
Best wishes to you and your children,
P.S. What if your ex is doing all the wrong things with your kids? They’re stressed out, taking it out on the kids, badmouthing you in front of them, keeping score, etc. Is there anything you can do?
While you can’t stop the other parent from being conflictual, you can do certain things to prevent your children from experiencing additional tension. Get my tips on dealing with a difficult ex and protecting your kids from additional hurt here:Protect Your Kids