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Children of Divorce
Historic Perspective of Families and New Trends
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 for employment and family. It sounds strange but now that people are not so financially dependent on each other, families split up more often.
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. 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 than 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 or at least be less involved. 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. If you are considering divorce, get personal counseling first. You think your spouse is difficult now? Wait until you have to deal with that person when they consider you their enemy!
Child Statistics on Single Parent homes
We are always trading one problem for another in life. You can stay home with your kids but, then you money will be tight. You can go to work but, then you might end up with a kid with behavioral issues. You can get divorced to make yourself happy and then your kids are miserable. Before you make a decision, you mighgt want to know what you are up against.
Here are the dark statistics of single parent homes:
- 85% of prison inmates come from single parent homes.(Bureau of Justin and Statistics)
- The department of health reports that 63% of all suicides are people from broken homes
- Graduation rates for kids in single parent homes are only lower
- Center for disease control reports "On average 85% of kids with behavioral problems are from a single parent home"
Who's at Fault?
Adults are very preoccupied with whose fault when a marriage ends. 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 their family security. At various times the child will be mad at and blame you both. 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 or talk to a friend. Your child is not your divorce confidant.
Tug-o-war- Using the kid to get back at your ex.
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 about the practice. Dad 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 she is 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 and make the kid hate them.
A PARENT SHOULD NEVER MAKE PLANS WITH THE CHILD BEFORE TALKING TO THE OTHER PARENT. 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 custodial 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. This also shows your child who is really participating in their life. If dad can take him to go-carts, he can show up to practice.
If a parent is violent, abusive, a drunk, or druggie, get a restraining order. Unsafe parents should not have unsupervised visitation. These types of behavior are not tolerable. Strict visitation guidelines should be observed in these cases. Mentally abusive parents fall under this category. If you have to, have your child evaluated to get the statement of a professional. 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. KEEP YOUR KID SAFE!
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. 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 a cheerleader). 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 your ex is not making it on 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. SUPPORT YOUR CHILDREN!!!
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 while growing up. 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. We have all heard the term "abandonment issues". You've heard it because it is a real psychologically damaging event when a parent disappears. While you can't make the other parent stay or care, you can use other family to fill the void. If a man leaves, throw in a good grandpa, by the same token if the mom bails out, get grandma or an aunt in there.
This situation can compound if the absent parent starts another family or leaves with someone in which they cheated. I have a son who's father never put him first, time and time again I have seen my adult child get a look when he realizes that his "dad" is playing dad to yet another girlfriends kids. If you can't take care of your own kids, don't try to take care of your girlfriend/boyfriends kids. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CHILD FEELING ABANDONED.
Children who don’t know a parent, tend sensationalize that parent. The imagination of a child can run wild with ideas about their missing parent. It is important to be honest with the child without damaging a future relationship. I had a situation with my 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. BE HONEST.
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 do not 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. Turning the ex-spouse into a villain 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. Your kids don't care that you got hurt, you are an adult so deal with it.
Rules Are Rules
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. There is usually one parent who gives the kid what they want all the time. This happens out of guilt or it is an insidious way to make the kid feel like you are the better parent. Out of all the stupid things divorced parents do, this is one of the worst. Kids are smart and they use this against you later by manipulating you to get what they want. If you are the "you can have anything" parent you deserve the spoiled brat you are creating. Agreeing on the rules 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.
The Responsible Parent
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. Trust me when I say that if you have raised that kid right they will eventually know you were the one who cared. 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 if you are raising kids after a divorce. Raising children is the most important thing we ever do, so do it right. Put your petty garbage aside and do what is best for your kid. Remember that your child did not ask to be in the middle of your wreck of a relationship. They are innocent of this situation. Treat them like it is not their fault.
The Other Parent is Unreasonable
Custody court is a mess. You can spend millions of dollars and still never get a crappy parent to do the right thing. This is a reality of divorce. My advice is simple, get a thick skin. That irresponsible unreasonable person you divorced is not going to change. Chances are good that the "bad" parent was barely holding it together when you were together. Now that you are not together, this person is going off the rails. You have the option to document things. Document behavior and actions. Keep a journal, copy and paste your text conversations into a word document saved under the date and time. Take it to court.
You have a life without your ex-spouse. You have a life with your child. If the other parent is making unreasonable demands and you cannot deal with it, take them back to court. A long time friend had an ex-husband who threatened to call the police every time she left their son with her parents. She exercised first right of refusal. First right of refusal is where you give the other parent the first option to take the child if you are going to be with them. In this case she was at work and her mother took her child after the father refused. Then the father started texting her that he was going to call the police. This is unreasonable behavior.
Some people do not understand the law. They think that they are in charge of everything. When they do not get their way, they pout and act like children. You do not have to put up with this type of abusive behavior from your ex-spouse. You are not subject to them. Remain calm and document everything. It is always to your advantage to be the voice of reason.
Best Case Scenario
You are divorced and you have a child,now what? Here is my advice:
- Live as close as you can to each other (it makes your kid feel safer and more secure)
- Start new traditions (create new fun holiday/birthday traditions. Maybe you and your ex take the child to an amusement park the weekend before Christmas to transition the kid from one house to the other, maybe you go to visit another relative for the holiday to make the kid feel a sense of family)
- Co-parent, when something comes up call each other and clue each other in
- Don't assume the other parent is trying to be a jerk
- Do not spoil your child
- Tolerate your ex for the sake of your child, that means being at the same place and acting like adults
- Both of you cheer on your child and be there for your child
I wish you all the best of luck navigating post divorce parenting.
This last thing I am going to tell you because, in retrospect I think it was one of the best things I did as a single mom. Years after our divorce I invited my ex-husband to my home for Christmas. I was tired of my kids doing the holiday juggle just so we could see them open a plastic toy separately. Spiritually, I dreaded having him in my home. It was a wonderful holiday. He was very appreciative of being there. Even though he wasn't a practicing Christian,he read the story of the birth of Jesus with us out of the bible (one of our traditions). For my kids it was the best Christmas ever, certainly the best gift I had ever given them. No one wins when people are petty. Sometimes you have to do something out of the normal to show your kids how important they are to you.