Changes in Parenting Once You Divorce
In Growing Up Fisher, the one-season TV sitcom featuring a newly divorced family learning their way in their new arrangement, the mom, played by Jenna Elfman, tries to be cool with her daughter, played by Ava Deluca-Verley, rather than acting as the mother. It’s a way to try to win her daughter’s affection and loyalty – and confirm that she’s the favorite parent.
While this story comes from a TV show, it’s not uncommon in real divorced families. After you get divorced, you know your life will be different. Just how different, exactly? And how will it affect your relationship with your children?
First, you are parenting alone – your former spouse lives in another house and makes different decisions than you do. Since the emotions are still acute, you don’t check in with each other to confirm consistency. It’s your approach vs. your ex, every man or woman for themselves.
That can lead to a sort of competition between former spouses, which isn’t good for anyone, least of all the children. Too many divorced parents unknowingly compete for attention and favor with their children. That’s a tug-of-war the children live every day, and they shouldn’t have to.
When parents are insecure about their place in their children’s lives, they try to win them over – and the kids come to expect gifts and entertainment as the norm.
We can’t protect our kids as much as we think we can. Divorce hurts everyone involved. But we get over the hurt and build strength in its place.
Our society is so used to protecting kids – not just emotionally but financially, too. We must accept that with divorce, things change. And it will all be OK in the end.
It’s hard to endure a difficult time. The dissolution of family as we know it requires time to adjust – for everyone – and believe it or not, your kids will weather the changes better than you will.
Sometimes we have to let our kids fall in order to learn how to stand up and dust themselves off and try to climb to the top again.
And sometimes we have to do the same. We can’t cushion anyone’s fall.
So accept that when you divorce, your relationship with your children will change. You will still be the parent, they will still be the children, and you will all still love each other. Different does not necessarily mean bad. Ride the waves. They always eventually take you to shore.