Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Parents Perceptions vs. Children's Perceptions

When parenting children before or after a divorce, be mindful that your needs and those of your children will often be very different. While you might be feeling angry, anxious, or depressed about your new living situation, it is entirely possible that your child feels a great sense of relief now that things have changed. Avoid assuming that your children feel or think exactly the way you do. Their experience of your ex is very different from your experience. That is the way it should be. Remember, the relationship your children have with both parents is different from the relationship parents have with each other. You may feel betrayed or rejected by your ex-spouse, but that may not be what your child experienced. Parents and children rarely experience a separation and divorce in exactly the same way. If you suspect you are confusing your own feelings with those of your kids, get some outside objective feedback from someone you trust. Attending some parenting classes can also be helpful.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Even Lousy Parents Have Something to Offer

Parents will tell me that their co-parent has little or nothing to offer their children in the way of good parenting. I gently and respectfully try to get them to see that raising healthy children means having the best possible relationship with both parents. However, you cannot control what your co-parent does and doesn't do. Moreover, attempts to dictate what kind of parent they will be usually backfires and makes things worse. This is actually good news because it keeps you focused on the things that you can change. Your job as a co-parent is to begin focusing on those areas (however small they may seem) where you can feel positive about the other parent and what he or she has to offer your children. All parents have something to offer. Nurturing the seeds of what is good in the other parent can often help more positive things grow. This means that whatever good that parent has to offer should have some pathway of getting through to the child.

Step back and look at your ex-spouse in the role of a parent. Many people make lousy husbands or wives but have the potential to be terrific parents. Don't assume that the parent he or she was in your marriage will be the same parent once you are divorced. Remember also that in some ways, your child identifies with your ex-spouse. On some very basic level, children have a sense that they are 50% Mom and 50% Dad. Any trashing of your ex inadvertently trashes 50% of your child. Also, children have a shared history with both parents, and a shared present and future. Your ex-spouse is an important part of your children's lives, and just as you would help your children succeed in school or sports, it is important to help them succeed in that relationship.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Remembere to take care of yourself

In the parenting classes that we teach, parents often times say they have very little time for themselves. This is unfortunate because your children deserve the best you possible. Parents should realize that focusing on their own needs helps their children. Most children, regardless of their age, will feel secure if they sense their parents are emotionally healthy. Making time for yourself, while often difficult, is important. Healthy outlets include counseling with a professional therapist, meeting with friends or support groups, or any activity that brings you pleasure. Neglecting yourself makes it difficult to be effective with your kids’ needs. Positive parenting through divorce requires that you have outlets for dealing with your own difficult feelings.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Working Through Negative Feelings After Divorce

Effective parenting after divorce is facilitated by your changing perceptions. How you view you are ex spouse is extremely important, as well as the feelings they evoke for you. It is never too early to begin working on your negative feelings toward your ex-spouse. However, please realize that having angry or painful feelings about your ex is not the problem. This is normal. The problem comes when parents don't find appropriate ways of expressing and dealing with these away from their children. It is best to have a support system of family and friends, as well as a trusted mental-health professional with whom you can process these feelings appropriately. Attending parenting classes for divorced or divorcing parents can also be helpful. Don't expect to get through negative feelings overnight. Most parents report a back-and-forth process between negative feelings and a sense of resolve. Remember that this happens over time, and you have to find your own timetable. Parents who avoid dealing with these difficult feelings merely prolong the suffering for themselves and their children.