Parenting Mistakes After Divorce
When parents divorce, knowing how to move forward in parenting isn't always very obvious. Between the array of emotions you are experiencing plus the hostility that may still be brewing between yourself and your co-parent, being able to raise your kids together the same way as before won't likely be an option. However, this doesn't mean you can't be a great parent to your kids and find some way to manage the act of parenting together. Part of finding a way to handle this task is to recognize common parenting mistakes after divorce and find ways to avoid them. Consider these four simple parenting mistakes after divorce and strategies you can employ in order to avoid them.
Arguments Over Trivial Items
When kids are splitting their time across two homes, it is easy for items to get lost in the shuffle. Let's say that your kids arrive at your house and you're getting them unpacked, then you realize that one of your kids forgot to pack their favorite pair of pajamas. While it might sound simple enough to ask your co-parent to drop off or go over and pick up the pajamas, even simply asking could create conflict in some cases. Getting into arguments over trivial items, like in this example, is one parenting mistake after divorce that can be avoided by simply being prepared before these moments occur.
Try and come to an agreement with your co-parent to not fight over these situations. It's not worth either of your time or your emotional effort. Even so, you can prevent instances such as these situations by equipping your houses with the things that your kids need when they are with either of you like some clothes, toiletries, and a few toys. While you might not be able to duplicate special things that your kids can't live without, you can cover nearly everything else. When it comes to those very special items with young kids, be vigilant about making sure they are where they need to be. Remembering to pack their favorite toys is one thing, but if they have special medicine or other equipment that is vital to their well-being, be sure not to miss those. When you help your kids pack to go to their other parent's house, be sure to actually see those items being packed so that you're sure it happened. When your child is returning to your house, take a moment during the exchange to ask them or your co-parent about the special items. If your kids are old enough, talk to them about the importance of being responsible for their own things. This is a perfect opportunity to teach your kids about responsibility, so have them gather their own items and pack for themselves.
Overindulging Your Child's Desires
A divorce is a traumatizing event for kids to go through, and it often leaves parents feeling guilty for having subjected their kids to it. As a way to try and make things right, some parents may overindulge their kids a bit. This might be done by buying them lots of gifts, treating them to extra desserts throughout the day, or simply letting them get their way whenever they want it. While it isn't wrong to sometimes indulge your children's desires, it can become a dangerous path to follow if it is done too often. As time goes on, your kids may have grown to expect this sort of treatment, and this can lead them to have unrealistic expectations of you and of life in general. They may begin to act out in anger or frustration when you or others do not let them get their way. This kind of behavior is unhealthy and has the potential to lead to consequences in school, with friends, and in other areas of life.
Although it might feel good to make your kids happy in the moment, you're not doing them any favors in the long run by overindulging them now. Love and respect are things that are earned, not bought. Watch how often you are indulging your kids with gifts and treats. You can certainly award them for good behavior or surprise them every once in a while with something special, but this is best done in moderation. Don't allow yourself to break the rules you had once set out in parenting, as this will just confuse your kids in the end. Also, set a good example for your kids by having a good attitude yourself. If you don't get your way in something, try not to sweat it too much in front of your kids. Parents are the most important teachers for their kids when it comes to how to live, so show your kids how to take things in stride. This will go a long way now and into their futures.
Badmouthing Your Co-Parent
Emotions are high during a divorce, but even after it's all said and done, your feelings may not have totally died down. Even if you think that you never say bad things about your co-parent in front of your kids, you might be saying more than you should sometimes. Badmouthing your co-parent can have it's consequences, even if you think you're being "careful" about how you're doing it. Kids can easily overhear phone conversations you're having with a friend, look through your text messages, and understand sarcasm in your voice as you say something backhanded about your co-parent. For kids, hearing their parents badmouth each other is actually quite an emotional burden for them to bear. They don't want to hear one of their parents saying mean things about the other. They might even feel like you're trying to convince them to feel the same way, and this is completely unfair.
As co-parents, badmouthing each other is an easy mistake to make after divorce. No matter how frustrated you are, it can only make things worse. Recognize the things you say about your co-parent, and separate the badmouthing from everything else. Take time to think before you start talking about anything that includes your co-parent. Talking about your feelings with a counselor or therapist can be so helpful in teaching you ways to avoid the mistake of badmouthing your co-parent. Besides just the parents, other adults who are close to your kids can have an influence on their emotions. If your friends or family are the ones who are badmouthing your co-parent in front of you or your kids, kindly ask them to stop. Let your kids have the opportunity to feel how they want to about both of their parents without any outside influences.
Making Your Child Choose
After a divorce, some parents want to leave it up to their kids to decide who they want to live with and when. The thought behind this might be that they think that they are doing their kids a favor by letting them make the decision rather than having it decided for them. While getting an opinion on the matter from your older kids might not hurt too much, kids should not be faced with making this decision on their own. They might not know what to do or which way to go, as they don't want to hurt either of their parents by picking one over the other. It can also leave parents feeling hurt, believing that their kids love one parent more than the other simply because their kids stated that they'd like to live primarily with the other parent.
This is one big parenting mistake after divorce that can be avoided by simply not leaving this decision up to the kids. Particularly for young kids, having to make the choice between one parent or the other is not a fair task for them to be subjected to. Kids crave to have a relationship with both of their parents, and they don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Dedicate yourself to working with your co-parent on a living solution that best fits your family's lifestyle overall. Working together to create your parenting agreement will leave both of you much more satisfied with the results because you'll have more control over the outcome. Explain your decision to your kids, and assure them that no matter where they are, they can reach out to both of you anytime.
The truth about mistakes is that everyone makes them, even parents facing life after divorce. Even so, these parenting mistakes are all avoidable as long as you are dedicated to recognizing and avoiding them. Refrain yourself from fighting in front of your kids or overindulging their every desire. Also, dedicate yourself to not badmouthing your co-parent and to formulating the best possible parenting agreement for your family.