Children need structure, even as their parents are divorcing. Many parents feel that they can’t discipline their children because they’re dealing with so much emotionally. But by having clear, defined limitations for your children, it will help your children feel safe and secure which they need, particularly when they’re parents are divorcing.
While maintaining clear rules and limits is important, it’s also important for parents to choose their battles. Now is not the time to be extremely strict or add new rules. Start with one or two of your most critical rules and let your children know what they are. Make sure that they’re used to them before adding more. Give your children about 2 weeks to get used to a new rule before adding another one.
It’s also important to involve children in determining what the rules are. Let them make some of the rules themselves and try to come up with some together. You can even add some fun ones like, “Anyone who’s sad gets to choose what’s for dessert.” Post the rules somewhere in your home where everyone can see them. This enables everyone to be on the same page and avoids miscommunication.
Too many parents focus on negativity and punishment. If you recognize appropriate behavior and focus on the positive, your children will respond better. Even if there is only one thing that your child does that’s positive, point that out. Children gain so much more from positive reinforcement than negative attention.
Remember to work with your children’s other parent and not against them. You can have different parenting styles as long as you respect each other’s differences. Children don’t need you to be aligned on everything but they do need you to both message them that tell they must respect the other parent. Children do best when both parents are involved and they have a good working relationship with each other. You don’t have to be best friends with your children’s other parent, you just need to work effectively with each other.
Raising children isn’t easy and when the family is going through divorce, that creates even more complications. However, if you maintain structure for your children, choose your battles, focus on the positive and have a good working relationship with your children’s other parent, you are well on your way to having happy and healthy children.
Jill Barnett Kaufman is a Divorce Coach, Therapist, Parent Educator and Divorce Mediator. She is an experienced professional who helps clients discover new ways to resolve a variety of challenges when considering divorce, starting the process of divorce or are already divorced.