You get married, start a career, buy a home and then the most amazing thing happens.  You have children.  It’s like the official notice that says you're finally an adult, a parent, a leader of your family.  It's scary, but wonderful. 

You finally have control to provide the best life possible for your children.  And if your like most of us, you're determined to make your children's upbringing better than your own.  Yes, your brand new family is perfect, even when it's not.  Your kids will do as you say, not as you do and just because you said so!wink

Back to sleep

You're off to a good run at the American Dream: the house, the spouse, the kid(s) and everything it takes to keep your life running; things are just right.  It feels so completely right, for all of one, single day.  One wonderful day before you fall asleep only to wake 2 hours later to a whaling, hungry baby in the next room.  Your spouse is out cold, nestled up nicely in bed, while the oversized mutt pops his head up to see what all the fuss is about.  

While you give the baby a bottle you suddenly fear may have come from a dishwasher of dirty dishes, it hits you.  You're a parent.  While the fear rushes over every part of your body, the baby slowly falls back to sleep.  And that fear, that fear is so strong, about all the scary things that could happen.  Will you actually be a better parent than your own?  Will your children turn out okay? 

All you can do is slowly lower the baby back into his crib and forget about it.  Back to bed you go.  Only now you're a parent.  A festering, worried mom or dad.  The reality of what's ahead of you starts to emerge.

Wake up

Years later following your divorce, you wake up again only now to the silent darkness.  Those common fears of every parent still haunt you, while some have become a reality.  Your family is no longer in the same house, your life is forever changed and you fear your children are forever damaged.  You no longer compare your parenting to your parents, in many ways, you have a newfound respect for them.  How did they do it for all of those years? 

You lived, learned, loved and lost.   But, most things with your kids went well and your little imperfect family is still the most valuable thing in your life!  

Your baby is in grade school with a sister or brother or two.  Your spouse is no longer in your bed and your trusted family companion is long since gone. Your in a new place and your problems are nothing like those pesky, annoying problems you feared all those sleepless nights.  Oh, how you wish you could go back to those ridiculous fears.  But, you're older, wiser and have real problems to keep you up at night.  Right?

Disconnected

Yes.  Life was exactly right for awhile and then something got in the way.  Maybe it was your fault, maybe it wasn’t.  Usually, at some point during or after your divorce you realize it doesn’t really matter whose fault it was anymore or at least you know it shouldn't.  

Still, your less energetic, preoccupied, overworked and financially burdened.  Things are different and your kids know it.  You know it.  If the dog were still around, he’d know it.

You tune out and they can tell.  You forget and they guilt you.  You cry and they get quiet, sullen and worried.  There isn't time to be preoccupied, overworked or financially burdened.   In such difficult times, you wonder how to get your family and parenting back to where it began. 


Parenting Tips When Divorcing

  • Stay honest and continue to expect honesty
  • Don't shelter your children, but don't openly argue in front of them 
  • Don't negatively talk about their other parent in front of them or to them
  • Stay consistent in your parenting plan and expectations
  • Empathize with their feelings and concerns
  • Let them know the changes they should expect throughout the divorce and beyond 
  • Realize that while children may say they're okay, problems with grades, friendships or behavior may be a better indicator
  • Don't expect all of your children to react the same or be equally affected by the divorce
  • Don't overdo "divorce related discussions" unless you feel it's necessary, instead focus on positive activities and family time
  • Don't dismiss your child's need to talk about the divorce and get your child counseling, if needed

Seeking answers

The simple truth is that while you may want to keep your feelings from your children to protect them, there is also a value in being honest and genuine.  Grieving is part of the process of letting go.  Being a good parent doesn't mean you should shelter your children from what you are experiencing.   Just don't immerse them in it either.

Don't try to "go back" to the way things were in order to find happiness.  This is a new chapter in your lives; live it that way.  Start new activities that promote family time and discussions. Positive activities will help you and your children focus on tomorrow instead of yesterday.

Journey

Raising your kids is a journey that in it, there will be really awesome fun moments, really perplexing issues and endless nights laying awake worrying and stressing about really scary things that thankfully rarely ever happen.  

Instead, most of what happens are the things you never expect.  Some good, some bad.  But, despite how much we mess up as parents, our kids usually turn out pretty darn awesome.  Regardless if it’s an attribution to our parenting or that kids are resilient and completely capable of overcoming difficult, life changing events; we can’t mess them up too much.  

Don't overthink it.  They grow up too fast for that.  While you’re wasting time thinking about the best way to raise your kids, they're becoming young men and women.

You and your ex are gonna make some good parenting decisions and some bad, but really your kids will turn out pretty much the same regardless of all the overthinking. The best thing you could do is let them know you love them and that you care by providing good parenting skills and expectations.  The journey is long one, but life is short, so cherish every minute while your kids are still kids.  Once they're adults, the relationship will change once again.  But, don't worry, you'll be ready for it.

Another day

What I have found is that during all of the terrible stuff that happens during divorce, the best thing you can do for your children is to be yourself.   Don’t change good, consistent parenting skills for the sake of change.  It's easy to see your children struggle and think it's something you're doing wrong.  Sometimes it may be a contributing factor.   But sometimes it's just kids being kids.  

If your kids are going to get into trouble, not much you can do will stop them. Your best defense is to discourage them from wanting to seek trouble in the first place.  Do this with clear and consistent boundaries, a loving home and good communication.  Make sure you are your children's best and first resource when they have a problem instead of their friends, the internet or television.

Stay consistent

Truthfully, by the time most of us figure that out, no modifications to our parenting plan will help.  Kids are smart, if they see they are "getting to you" they will continue to employ their strategies to get a sympathetic parent to bend on consistent parenting decisions.  So stay on course, your kids may veer off from time-to-time, but they usually always find their way back to a parent who loves them and rules that protect them. 

Let your kids know you love them no matter how much you may be disappointed or disagree with their choices or behavior.  Say the actual words, "I love you.".  Show them your love with clear boundaries and reasonable expectations.  Sometimes you may have problems in your relationship with your children, but don't let that affect your parenting.  

Counseling for kids and parents

Most kids respond well to group therapy or counseling; if your child seems depressed, anxious or out of mood, don't be afraid to give counseling a try or speak with a family physician for suggestions.  Parents with kids in counseling also may benefit from speaking with a counselor or therapist.

Summary

The time following divorce is turbulent and exhausting.  But, it's also a new beginning, filled with an opportunity for a better future for you and your children.  Start your new beginning with anticipation and excitement about the future.  Allow them the opportunity to recover with you be being honest and empathetic.  Together your new day will begin and together it will be a great one!

-OurDMK.com



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