We know what you are probably thinking, “I’m willing to do this stuff, but my ex is a moron who only thinks about his or herself.” As a forensic psychologist focusing on high conflict divorce and parental access disputes, we hear this type of information on a daily basis. The fact of the matter is, when people are getting divorced they often do act like idiots. There’s no denying that fact. People who were once able to have a level head, are all of a sudden acting completely out of character, doing things that they swore I would never do. The good news though, is that research shows us that as long as children are consistently exposed to one levelheaded, predictable, and stable parent, children are typically able to adjust and turn out just fine.
If you are a separating or divorcing parent, who continues to think about the kids needs over your own, here are three quick tips that you need to keep in mind in order to increase the chances that your children will turn out okay, and be resilient, despite divorce.
1. Predictability, stability, consistency, whatever you want to call it… Do it! As long as we are not talking about an abusive situation, parents need to be as predictable and stable as possible, despite going through a chaotic time. To be clear, now is not the time to move, change schools, start a new religion, introduce them to new boyfriends or girlfriends, or any other major changes. Children need predictability in order to focus on figuring out their new life and new routine. They cannot do this If parents are constantly changing things around. The kids have had enough change for a while, give them two to three years before you throw them any more curve balls.
2. Be involved in school activities. This means, go to parent teacher meetings, volunteer in the school to read a book, go to school plays, be a chaperone on a field trip, work on homework together, talk to the teachers, etc. Research shows that after a divorce, when parents are involved in their child’s educational experience, the child has a much better chance of being emotionally well-adjusted.
3. Commit to finding someone to vent to other than your child. Although you may think an eye roll is harmless, or a passing comment about what your ex was supposed to have done differently won’t affect your kid, but it is a fact proven though a large body of research, that when parents put adult information about divorce into little kid ears, the children internalize it and end up feeling bad about themselves, rather than angry with the other parent. It backfires every time and simply isn’t worth it. Your child will figure out who was there for them soon enough, you aren’t giving the child enough credit if you think that he or she won’t “get it” on your own.
So the bottom line for today’s tips: When going through divorce, be consistent, no crazy changes, no curveballs for the kid to deal with. Wait a couple years to introduce new relationships and stay active not involved in school activities. Lastly, find a friend to vent to, no bad talking the other parent in front of the child; don’t even roll your eyes or comment under your breath. It hurts the kids in an already difficult time, so get your act together and suck it up.
If you would like more information on improving your parenting skills during a separation or divorce, please feel free to call us at 561–429-2140. Our clinicians do the research to provide you with techniques that of been proven to help your children have a chance at being more resilient during or after their parents breakup.