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Parents Guide to Raising Children in Divorce
One of the greatest challenges in society today is keeping a family together. In fact whole societies have been categorized simply by the nature of the family unit. Historically families use to stay together all day, farming or raising animals. Trades people brought their children up to learn a trade to support themselves. The choices for breaking out of the family business were bleak back then. Today we have all the choices in the world not just for employment but for family. It sounds strange but now that people are not so dependent on each other, families split up easier.
The problem is that if two people could not make a marriage work because they have differences of opinion then how will those same two people continue to parent with differences of opinion. So often blame plays a big role in who stays and who goes as far as parenting is concerned. People may think that women always end up with the kids however, single fathers are taking on more responsibility in previous years. This is especially true when the mother turns out to be less committed to the children.
Regardless of the reasons for the couple split chances are good that one parent is going to disappear. Watching this scenario play out time and time again I see some parents who are only interested in themselves. Few parents understand the whole impact of the situation from a child’s perspective. During single parenting paradigms play out in a way that is unhealthy for children. Let me tell you this, being divorced is 10 times tougher than being married. So if you are considering this route, get counseling first. You think your spouse is difficult now? Wait until you have to deal with that person when they consider you the enemy!
Adults are very preoccupied with whose fault it is that the marriage ended. Someone cheated, someone lied, someone was not a good provider… the list goes on. Bottom line is that kids don’t care whose fault it was (read that again so it sinks in). Knowing whose fault it was does not change the fact that the child has lost someone. At various times the child will be mad at and blame you both. However, the brunt of this situation will be felt by the parent who has the most time with the child. You may think that blaming your spouse will make you the good guy, but you are wrong. The kids don’t want to hear about it, and as kids they shouldn’t have to. If you catch yourself telling your child what the other parent did, get counseling.
I really hope there is a special place in hell for parents who use their kids against each other. This is the sickest practice I have ever seen.
Here is an example;
Little Billy has baseball practice every Monday night. His dad knows this so he calls Billy Sunday and states that “If mom will let you go I will take you to ride go-carts tomorrow” Now the mother is put in a situation where they are the bad guy for saying no. The sickest part is that 9 times out of 10 the other parent never intended to take Billy anywhere. The entire set up was just to make the ex-spouse feel bad.
A PARENT SHOULD NEVER MAKE PLANS WITH THE CHILD BEFORE TALKING TO THE OTHER PARENT. It is the child that feels bad in this situation. If that is a parent’s intent maybe they should not be around the child. If you are the parent how do you handle it? Call the other parent back and invite that parent to the baseball practice. This facilitates the relationship without disrupting the schedule.
If a parent is violent, abusive, a drunk or druggie, gets a restraining order. These types of behavior are not tolerable. Strict visitation guidelines should be observed in these cases. Mentally abusive parents fall under this category. A parent who lies to a child in order to gain sympathy should not be around. Again kids don’t care about your adult garbage.
Most court ordered support is not enough to feed my dog for a month. There is nothing more irritating than a parent who does not hold up their end of the deal. Unless a parent was ordered to pay $1,000.00-2,000 in support, they are not really supporting that child. Times are tough and money is tight but nothing irks me more than a parent who NEVER buys anything for the child because support has been ordered.
Kids are expensive. Babies cost a ton to support and keep in diapers (I often wonder how we did this on two incomes), teenagers play expensive sports ($700.00 for cheerleading this year). Don’t make your kids pay for your mistakes. Do not assume that your kids have what they need because you forked over $220.00 a month. If you were not making it as a couple chances are good your ex is not making it in one income.
Reality check, do you want your child growing up in poverty? This is not about the ex. This is about the sacrifices you make in order to have your child’s life be as normal as possible. But if you are the person who insists that the ex takes the money for a manicure, go head but you are only hurting your child. If you worry about the ex spending money, pay for stuff directly.
Your child wants to see both parents. This can be difficult to understand but, your child loves you both. The child wants to go spend time with the other parent and they should be able to do so. Trying to keep your child from a parent will backfire. Eventually kids grow up and they look for that absent parent even if you have made them out to be a monster.
Children want to know where they came from, and that means knowing both sides of their family. How shocking is it that children often find out the reason the other parent stayed away was the parent they lived with. These situations are not perfect but, you can foster the relationship between your ex spouse and your child.
All too often a parent leaves and is rarely or never heard from again. From a child’s perspective this person left because of the child. That means the child thinks they did something to drive the parent away. In these situations counseling is the best option for the child. This situation can compound if that parent starts another family or leaves with someone they cheated with. Devastation and pain can be rough on both of you.
Children who don’t know a parent tend sensationalize that parent. The imagination of a child can run wild with ideas about their parent. It is important to be honest with the child without damaging a future relationship. I had a situation with oldest son where he never heard from his dad. I was honest with him. I told him his Dad loved him but he was not very good at keeping in touch. That was not a lie. His father did love him, and he was horrible at keeping in touch. Telling my son this he understood that his father was not avoiding him. Be honest with your child. You don’t have to into details, just be honest. Remember that children reflect parents, if you tell your child their parent is a looser the child will feel like a looser.
Parents sometimes turn themselves into martyrs over divorce. It is unhealthy to continue to blame and be angry over a divorce constantly stating how wronged you were. Eventually all people should get over it. Case in point; Mother finds out the dad is cheating, she takes three months of his paychecks, and takes off with the children. She specifically told the father NEVER to call (she left the state). Today she still blames the father for not being involved. In reality she hoped the father would chase her, when he didn’t, she became the martyr and after 14 years she still makes statements that are untrue about the father.
The sad thing is that kids can be brainwashed. In this situation it was not the kid’s fault that the marriage split. The kids were the victims, not the mom. The mom should have been adult enough to get over it and move on. Now these kids have no chance to have a relationship with their dad because this woman is constantly interfering and reminding them she is the victim. This is a form of mental abuse. If someone cheats it has nothing to do with the kids. Being the martyr will lead to a life alone when kids realize that they have been punished for something that had nothing to do with them.
Incidentally this behavior teaches children to make excuses for what they accomplish. Instead of teaching kids that "you were wronged and so you have nothing", try showing them you can be strong and make good decisions no matter what happens. Attitude is everything. Mothers don’t get awards, their reward is good kids. Villianizing the ex-spouse is damaging to everyone. It is not healthy. Villianizing the other person gives you an out, remember that you chose that person. It says something about you that you chose the person who cheated, left, or disappeared. Chances are all the relationships after that were unsuccessful, maybe you should find out why.
Lets face it some people are not very good parents. There are parents who do not monitor or care about movie ratings, parents who give toddlers soda, and my favorite parents who let a child under five run loose outside. These situations should be agreed upon from the beginning. As much as possible parents should set the same ground rules in both homes. This will keep the child from having problems adjusting between parents. If there is a disagreement and it is sever enough, go to mediation. BOTH PARENTS SHOULD HAVE THE CHILD'S WELFARE IN MIND. This is tough sometimes but, well worth the time.
There is usually one parent who is more responsible than the other. For this responsible parent I say: there will come a day when your efforts are appreciated. You think it will never happen, you think that your kids will never realize what you did, but they will. They will realize it without you saying anything. Parents who insist on stating their superiority are insecure and really not doing what is right for their children.
Children are important and they come first. Why is that? Because like it or not you took on that responsibility when you had those children. If you didn’t want that responsibility, you should have thought of that before. It’s too late for anything but, damage control. Raising children is the most important thing we ever do… do it right.