Now that the dust has settled and the formation of two separate households has emerged, how do you prepare your child to cope with the changes that occur because of divorce? Even though parenting may appear distinct and different, it is important that co-parenting remain a priority. How each parent arranges their day-to-day affairs can be incongruous, however overall expectations for the child must remain consistent.
Consistency is key in terms of helping your child transition in to this new post-divorce arrangement, as it reduces any anxiety about what will happen next. Two households with stark contrasts in terms of routines, structure, and discipline might be confusing for the child and facilitate splitting behaviors as the child develops an awareness into which parent will best meet his needs with the least resistance. This may create a disparity in following directions and engaging in compliant behaviors across contexts. Maintaining similar modes of discipline and expectations will reaffirm that even though both parents are not under the same roof, there is uniformity in parenting which can be comforting to the child and prove effective in instilling parental core values in children.
Here are 3 tips on how to help your child deal with life after divorce:
- Maintain open and honest communication. Invite your child to process his feelings, both positive and negative, about the situation at hand. This will allow the child to mourn the loss of his previous perception of “family” and to adopt and transition into a newer version of “family.” Provide your child with creative outlets to draw, communicate, or conceptualize what family means to him now (i.e. a child might draw something that illustrates family equals 2 houses instead of 1 house).
- Never bad mouth your ex in front of your child. Maintaining positive sentiments about the child’s other parent will enhance positive feelings of the other parent in the eyes of the child. Just because there is strain in the parental dyad does not mean that child needs to take sides. Also, this ensures the child feels safe to discuss the other parent in your presence. Otherwise, the child might feel anxious about sharing his positive feelings about the other parent to you and feel caught in the middle.
- Communicate with your ex. Make sure that you are both on the same page about core values and expectations so you can reinforce each other as challenges arise. If for example, the child has been told at Mom’s house during the week that they cannot go to soccer practice over the weekend if they don’t comply with bedtime routine M-F, Dad would have to uphold that consequence. What is so important too is that Mom approve this consequence with Dad before offering it. If dad is not ok with compromising soccer, Mom and Dad would have to come up with another option. The more the parents are on the same page, the better, as this will reduce stress during the already stressful time brought on by divorce.