The most influential relationship any child will have is with their parents. With the scary statistics we’ve all read about divorce, it’s likely that you’re scared for your kids.
The balance you need to strike in your respective relationships with your former spouse is a delicate one if your child is to grow up healthy, successful, and well-adjusted. You want your child to defy every statistic; just because your marriage is over, their chances of success shouldn’t be compromised; certainly not if you have anything to say about it.
Your Family has to Come First
Your relationship with your kids must come first. Not that you have to blow off work to attend every soccer game; maybe if we lived in a perfect world you could, but for now the best you can do is try your best to work around your kids’ schedules. Your kids want you in their lives, so be in their lives as much as you can be, even if you have to sacrifice leisure activities to rearrange your work schedule around your children.
It is absolutely imperative that you put in the hours with your kids to build and maintain these relationships. The statistics are working against you and your goal to raise your kids to be as well-adjusted as those that come from homes where divorce isn’t in the picture. If you want to make their lives more normalized and successful, you’ll need to make time to be their parent and show your love.
One thing you can make a commitment to every night that will give them the sense of love and stability in a big way is to make family dinner at the table, at a set time when possible, an established part of the household routine. Get your kids involved in preparing it by giving them age-appropriate tasks whenever you can (they’re more likely to eat something if they made it themselves, they’ll need to learn to cook eventually, and the family that cooks together is forced to spend time together and bond as they work together to create dinner).
How Do You Hover?
You’ve heard of course about the dangerous effects of helicopter parenting—the nagging, hovering, anxious style of parenting so decried in modern parenting books and child psychology journals. Helicopter parenting, in addition to the competitive culture that created it, has been hailed as one of the worst modern offenders behind the rise of child depression and anxiety rates.
You obviously don’t want to be a helicopter parent; you want to raise whole, happy, well-adjusted kids who will continue to be so into adulthood. But you know that you need to make them feel loved, and that you’ll have to work harder than most parents to give your child a feeling of stability and security. The statistics you’ve no doubt read tell you that your children are less likely to succeed, but you don’t want concern to turn you into a one-mom helicopter.
The principal problem with helicopter parenting is a physical presence with an emotional absence, i.e., you’re there to make sure your kids seem to be succeeding but you don’t take the time to emotionally nourish them, acknowledge their feelings, give them necessary unstructured time to play and decompress, or really connect with them emotionally (at worst, some helicopter parents unconsciously herald their “successful” kids like trophies).
So while you should encourage your kids to succeed at their endeavors and do their best to become their best, let them know that you recognize and acknowledge that their feelings are valid, whatever those may be. Take time to actually listen to your children’s thoughts and feelings, crazy as your lives may be. Help them work through their problems themselves; talk it out and propose solutions, only swooping in to talk to a teacher or principal if other channels fail.
If your kids are aware that you care about them as individuals, then you have less to worry about than true Helicopter Parents.
This goes for your kids and your spouse; you have to respect your kids and your spouse, and that means treating them with validity and honesty.
Your kids need to understand that you respect their opinions and feelings as valid; otherwise they won’t be able to continue to form emotional connections with you as they grow, which in turn will make them more likely to act out.
It’s also important that you be honest with your children about why their parents are getting a divorce as much as you can and still keep it age-appropriate; if you aren’t honest about your reasons for divorce, your children will inevitably worry that the divorce is their fault. So tell your children as honestly as you can—no blaming, no name-calling of your former spouse—why their parents aren’t married anymore. An honest dialogue, as they grow, about what worked and what didn’t about the marriage will lessen their own chances of getting divorces, and help you teach them how to find a good, loving partner of their own.
It’s also important that you be respectful to your ex if/when you do encounter each other (unless you have a restraining order, in which case you should dispense with pleasantries and call the cops). Be cordial to each other, particularly around the kids as long as you’re not splitting for reasons of abuse. This will teach the kids about forgiveness and make the transition in the divorce smoother and more stable for them.
About the Author: Annie Babbitt writes about her interest in current events, political science and philosophy. Annie loves helping promote change and being an advocate for those in need.
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