Parenting after divorce takes patience, cooperation and collaboration. It’s not uncommon for one parent to notice behavior differences in their children when they return from a stay with their other parent. This can be extremely frustrating or irritating, especially if your values and parenting style doesn’t match that of your former spouse.
What can you do to remedy the situation? Try having a conversation about how inconsistencies affect your children after divorce – and see if you can come to a better understanding.
Consistency in parenting creates the smoothest transition after divorce – and in the years that follow. If the rules previously established in your home are still followed by both parents after the divorce, the children are likely to more easily adjust to the new transitions in their life. In families where Mom and Dad dramatically disagree about significant parenting decisions, the consequences can be disturbing and sometimes dangerous. Differing values regarding discipline, curfews, homework, eating habits, after school activities, etc. can create confusion in your children and major conflicts between Mom and Dad. Children can pay the price emotionally – and are also likely to take advantage of the parental rift in many destructive ways. When they play Mom against Dad everyone looses and the kids especially lose the security and continuity of effective parenting.
With this in mind, strike up a conversation with your ex and discuss ways in which you can agree on some rules in both houses. Don’t point fingers and put your ex on the defensive with blame or shame. Focus instead on the benefits to your children when they experience consistency and agreement between their parents.
If you can’t find a place of agreement, try to let go and accept the disparities rather than creating more tension in your relationship. Children will adapt to differences in Mom and Dad’s homes and come to accept that as reality. While they may act out more and take advantage of your lack of agreement and continuity between homes, they will survive. Trust that in time they often come to appreciate your values and the fact that you’ve stuck to them. Often as adults they will acknowledge you for the very rules that they most rebelled against.
We demand a lot from children when they move from home to home as we try to co-parent after divorce. For that reason give your kids some slack. Allow the time to transition back into your home after an away-stay with their other parent. Remind them gently about the way we do things in your house and don’t jump on them for infringements in the first hours after their return.
Remember they didn’t ask for your divorce and as hard as any of this is on you, it’s that much more difficult for them – physically as well as emotionally.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT, is the author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook™ Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! She is also founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. For more information, free articles on child-centered divorce, coaching services and her free ezine, go to: //www.childcentereddivorce.com.
© Rosalind Sedacca 2009 All rights reserved.
Great post Rosalind. Consistency is always nice, but it’s not worth throwing the attempt at co-parenting out the window for. Great points!
Many thanks for your comments, Carolyn. I appreciate your support. Co-parenting is about collaboration, as any parenting is. We need to remind parents that parenting after divorce need not be that different from parenting before divorce if we put the children’s well-being first in all our decision-making.