After a divorce, when you are with your children, you are the only one in charge. This can cause situations that you had not considered before. Social worker, Debbie Pincus, provides advice so that you can demonstrate your control and ability to support your principles so that the children will understand the rules and not allow you to become manipulated by your own guilt.
1. It is okay to fall apart. The children can see; this is not the same as over-sharing your personal life or relationship with your ex. It is letting your children see that it is okay to be upset and grieve for what you have lost, but that you will get better.
2. Don’t allow guilt to rule your decisions. If you do not continue to give out previously expected consequences due to your feeling of guilt, your children can develop some unwanted behaviors that can make disciplining them more difficult down the road. Children understand expectations, rules and consequences. If you are not following through, this can make the children more confused and anxious, as they will not know what to expect.
3. Remind your children that you are there to take care of them, not the other way around. Many children will attempt to fill the void and try to take care of you. Let them know that they can still count on you and you are able to take care of yourself and your family.
4. Don’t put your child in the middle. Children get caught in the middle when parents put them in the middle. Don’t allow your children to be the messenger. If your ex has an issue with your parenting or homework style, confirm with your children that each parent is doing what they think is best and not say anything negative about the other parent, if possible. Then, there is nothing for the children to report to the other parent and the children are kept out of the situation.
5. Don’t allow the children to play the parents against each other. Remind the children that each home may have different rules and that is how it will remain. It also helps to tell the children that you will check with the other parent when something sounds different or unusual. By letting your children know that you are reaching out to the other parent, they will learn they cannot manipulate you.
6. Be empathetic when your children are transitioning back to your house from your ex’s home. They may be “acting out” as a way of testing your boundaries or are sad of having to leave the other parent. Acknowledge your children’s feelings and give them time to re-settle in.