Can you still maintain the Mom & Dad roles during your divorce? Divorce is difficult for everyone, adults and children alike. As parents we want to hide the difficult stuff from our children. We don’t want them to see us upset, angry or sometimes falling apart.
However you don’t have to hide these feelings from them. You are entitled to fall apart and grieve your loss. But this is not the same as over-sharing or telling your child too much about your personal life. If you do, you are forcing your child into an adult position and making them your confidant. Just let your child know this is hard time but it will get better. Your child sees how you handle your emotions; that it is okay to feel multiple emotions at a time such as love and anger at the same time. This is the lesson your child will take away.
All children react differently to divorce. Many children react with stress, anxiety and sadness. Others feel out of control, angry or scared. Or become aggressive, oppositional, defiant or uncooperative.
Some children “act out” hoping their parents will get back together. Others may “act perfectly” to prove their no reason to get divorced. Children’s grades may drop significantly, while others may start using substances to help with their emotions.
How can you handle your child’s behavior during and after your divorce? Children need consistency. Children do best when their parents act like their parents. This means you are mom and dad even though you are no longer a couple. Keep consistent rules and the same consequences, maintain a stable routine as much as possible, keep transitions simple, well planned and with a routine.
Don’t ignore the behavior. It won’t go away. If your child is trying out a new negative behavior, determine an appropriate response/consequence and then follow through.
Setting limits and following through with these limits is very important. It shows the child you are still mom and dad and that you care about them and want to protect them. Children need to know some things won’t change; your love for them and the rules and boundaries you have established for them.
Here are some things to keep in mind while learning to parent your child through and after a divorce:
Ultimately parenting is hard. Parenting after divorce can be even harder. At times you are making decisions for your child alone where in the past you may have done so together. You are in a major state of change and your child may be experiencing feelings they have never felt before. Even though you are no longer a married couple you are still and will always be mom and dad. Your children need to know that will not change.
by Jennifer Manning, MSW, LSW
©2018 Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation