Most parents want to help their children develop into healthy individuals even after divorce, believes divorce therapy experts. They can often find ways to overcome the disagreements that led to the end of the marriage and when they are unable to stop divorce, even when they hold different values and perceptions. However, some parents find it very difficult to transcend these differences and become engaged in endless conflict that is harmful to the children and to each other, and to the godly relationships of course.
Co-Parenting With Conflicted Parenting Styles
Many family courts award joint custody, even when parents are in total disagreement about how to raise the children and express open hostility toward each other. These parents often find it difficult to work together, but it is possible. According to psychotherapist and founder of Parenting After Divorce, Dr. Philip M. Stahl, the first step is to disengage.
“If you disengage,“ says the divorce therapy expert, “it’s like you have developed a ‘demilitarized zone’ around your children and have little or no contact with the other parent.” Parents who are disengaged do not communicate about minor incidents. They share important information but do not debate. Email can be a very effective way to communicate while parents learn to disengage.
Of course parents communicate with each other about urgent and important situations even while practicing disengagement. For example, if a child is sick, parents will let each other know about prescribed medications, potential side effects and other details.
Co-Parenting Through a Neutral Party
Many divorced parents find that they can only co-parent effectively by working through neutral decision-makers. Many courts are willing to appoint professionals to assist these families. This may be especially effective when either parent mistrusts the other. Some parents find it easier to follow the advice of a third party than that of the other parent.
Working with a neutral professional may help conflicted parents to avoid going back to court. It may also be an effective way to come up with a parenting plan. Such a plan should determine how parents will share in doctor visits, sports activities and other aspects of the child’s life. For example, one parent may be in charge of dental care while the other schedules after-school classes. A structured parenting plan often helps children.
Many courts recommend specific parenting classes as part of the divorce agreement. These classes often help parents to see how their continued conflict may hurt their children. Facilitators are often experienced professionals with useful suggestions for co-parenting effectively.
However, parents who wish to set aside their conflicts and put their children’s needs first may also find such classes through their county extension office, a local church or other sources. Some organizations, such as Putting Kids First, offer classes online. Therefore, even parents who are not ordered to take parenting classes may still find them.
Divorces often occur because of hostility or incompatibility in marriage, so continuing to co-parent effectively is almost always difficult. However, transcending this inherent conflict is necessary for the sake of the children. Parents who are willing to put their children’s needs first may benefit from learning to disengage. Neutral third-parties and parenting classes may help these parents to be more effective and caring co-parents, even when the conflict is great.
Raising a Child Alone
Raising a child is one of life’s most challenging tests after incompatibility in marriage. So challenging, it’s often a test two people take in partnership. But sometimes, for any number of reasons, we’re faced with meeting the challenge alone. Here are several important tips to help you succeed as a single parent.
Create a Positive Perspective
Whether positive or negative, your child is going to naturally learn from you and your outlook on life. If you’re depressed or overwhelmed by parenting alone, these negative feelings are going to be your child’s emotional nourishment during the most formative years.
Whatever the issues are, confront and resolve them. Find a way to develop that sort of can-do upbeat attitude you want your child to have. Being that positive role model is the most important thing you can do for your child.
To gain that positive perspective, consider becoming involved in groups such as Parents Without Partners, Single Parents USA or other similar groups. Collectively, these other parents raising a child alone have faced almost everything you may be experiencing, and can help you find a way to gain that positive outlook your child needs.
Avoid Making your Child your Confidant
When you don’t have an intimate partner to share your innermost feelings with, it’s tempting or even natural to share those feelings with your child. It’s a mistake, however, believes divorce therapy expert.
Children are not emotionally mature enough to accept the weight of a parent’s issues. They are programmed to learn about life at a more leisurely pace. Help your child to grow naturally by avoiding the urge to share your deepest feelings. Instead save those conversations for a trusted adult such as a parent, a pastor, a relative, a friend or a co-member of a support group.
This applies to two-parent families as well; all children require consistency. But parents raising a child alone deal with a greater degree of uncertainty over choosing the correct parenting style. This may lead to changing their minds more frequently concerning house rules and discipline.
As your child grows, your parenting style will naturally evolve, so this is not about being unbending or rigid. Children are naturally adept, however, at figuring out the rules of life. It’s OK to bend the rules from time to time for special occasions and achievements. These special rules teach your child about rewards and can be more effective than discipline in promoting positive behaviors.
By applying the rules consistently during the various stages of a child’s life, you encourage balanced emotional development. A well-behaved child will have a great positive impact on your parenting experience.
Avoid Putting Down Your Ex
Single parents with a surviving ex sometimes face the additional challenge of maintaining a cooperative coparenting relationship when the rest of their relationship is broken. At the barest minimum, keep matters civil at all times, even when you think your child can’t hear your exchanges. Fighting between parents, whether living together or separately, is one of the most difficult situations a child can endure. Taking the high road will spare your child that agony.
Separated parents may also compete for their child’s loyalty and affection by putting down the other parent, sometimes even subconsciously. Children innately love their mother and father both. One parent speaking ill of the other creates an inner conflict a child is not well equipped to deal with. When discussing your ex, choose your words carefully.
Develop a Network of Trusted Friends or Relatives
One of the most difficult challenges of parenting alone is not having a partner to share parenting duties. If you develop a network of trusted friends or relatives, they can provide the spirit of a loving family and alternate role models for your child. They can also be your sounding board so you don’t come to rely on your child for emotional support.
In divorce therapy it is said situations will also come up when you need someone to take care of your child while you deal with some important matter. Occasionally you’ll just need some “you time.” A sitter can fulfill the role in a pinch, but a trusted friend or relative who is part of the child’s daily life is a much better choice.
Be Discrete When Dating
Dating under normal circumstances can be challenging, but for the single parent, it can be even more complicated.
From your child’s point of view, casual dating should be nothing more than your going out with a friend. Beyond that, seek the advice of experts regarding the healthiest way to explain your new relationship to your child in the most age-appropriate way.
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