- Give them love from all sides.
- Never put your kids in the middle.
- Don’t ask them to take sides.
- Be adults! Keep schedules, responsibilities, and promises.
- Open up, and stay that way.
GIVE THEM LOVE FROM ALL SIDES.
Your children need to feel they are loved by both their parents. Too many parents get separated emotionally from their children when they separate from their spouses, which is not only unfair, but devastating to the kids involved.
Always remember to say “I love you,” and always remind them that even if you don’t love each other anymore, both you and your partner are united, at least in your love for your kids. Never try to play on your kids’ loyalties and emotions by saying, implying, or acting like their other parent doesn’t love them just as much as you do. That includes denying your ex the right to see his child, and denying your child the right to see his or her father.
NEVER PUT YOUR KIDS IN THE MIDDLE.
Separation, divorce, annulment—these may be legal and emotional battlefields in the war between you and your spouse. But declare your children neutral territory. Don’t use their personalities, the responsibility for caring for them, or, worse, their emotions, as weapons to use between you. That means, if the discussions aren’t go your way and you have custody of your children, you shouldn’t threaten to reduce or ban your ex’s access to your kids or badmouth him to them.
(Photo courtesy of PEP.ph)
DON’T ASK THEM TO TAKE SIDES.
Playing the “Who loves you more, Mommy or Daddy?” game is not only a bad idea in terms of your kids’ emotional welfare, but it’s bound to backfire on the both of you. Soon it will become a question of who gets to spend the most time with the kids, who makes the grandest gesture, and, yes, who has the deepest pockets for bribery. This spoils your children and teaches them to play off one parent against the other.
Even if this doesn’t happen, though, asking them to take sides, especially when they’re young, is unfair to them. It's asking them to make a judgment on a situation they cannot fully grasp and will never have the chance to look at objectively. Plus, you can’t always be sure that, if they do take sides, they’ll choose you over your ex.
On an added note, this rule should not apply to just you and your ex, but also to everyone involved. That includes your extended families. So you should ask your parents, siblings, friends, and so on to think about how your kids will take it if and when they should become vocal participants of the blame game.
BE ADULTS! KEEP SCHEDULES, RESPONSIBILITIES, AND PROMISES.
So you had to break your “’til death do us part” promise, which you made to your ex when things were still dandy between you. Let that be the last promise you break when it comes to your family. Co-parenting doesn’t just give you two parents in two households: in many ways, it makes single parents out of the both of you. That means that you’ll both have to step up to your responsibilities now more than ever before.
What does this mean in practical terms? You both need to stick to your schedules and have backup plans for when the preset ones go awry; establishing routines in your kids’ lives will help them adjust to the situation better and gain a sense of security. You’ll need to evenly split the financial and emotional responsibilities of raising your kids right.
Finally, keep your promises to each other and to your kids. Breaking these will not only stress the already tense relations between you and your ex, but it will tell your kids that at least one of their parents is not to be trusted. And once your child’s trust in you is lost, it’s very difficult to earn back.
OPEN UP, AND STAY THAT WAY.
Talk things over with your children, together and separately. Try to get them to understand the situation and allay any fears of abandonment they can and will have. Be prepared to answer their questions—even the ones on topics that make you feel extremely awkward. You’ll not only need to answer these honestly and thoroughly, but you should encourage them to ask these of your ex as well, or ask your ex to join the discussion.
Like it or not, when you separate from or end your marriage to the father of your children, that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) stop him from being a father to them. Admit that as long as you want to remain a part of your children’s lives, you’re going to have to accept him as part of their lives, and by extension, yours. So as much as you are able, it’s a good idea to ditch the antagonism, at least for your kids if not for yourselves.
(Photo courtesy of PEP.ph)
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