Divorce isn’t easy on a family whether you’re the spouse filing or receiving the summons or the children caught in the middle. And let’s face it; even in the friendliest of divorces, there’s negative impact on the children who now struggle to figure out the new family dynamic. Their lives aren’t mom and dad in one house; they’re figuring out the rules and schedule at two homes.
Parents often feel the need to make up for lost time or spoil kids with gifts so they know they love them. The reality is that it’s just a way for parents to assuage their own guilt and their actions can potentially harm the kids in the long run.
All fun and no parenting
When you see your kids on a limited basis, all you want to do is have fun with them. While it’s great for them to know you and for you to spend quality time together, it shouldn’t be without rules or guidelines.
Kids crave boundaries and want to know you’re the person in charge even if they don’t always do what you tell them.
While it may be the last thing you want, communicating with your ex about household rules for both houses will help the kids understand their lives are stable even if they now have two homes. It will present a united front to your children even if you know the struggle it is to make communication happen.
Keeping the same bedtime ritual or after school schedule are among the most common rules divorced couples have for their shared children.
And if you’re on your own in enforcing rules, make sure the kids know who the parent is, even while they’re having fun, by enforcing things like table manners.
They will respect you more for the rules than they might ever tell you. Without the rules, they’re left to wonder. With rules, they know the boundaries and will try to stay within them.
Lavish kids with gifts?
Divorce and bad money decisions unfortunately go hand in hand. Lapses in judgement during the marriage cause long-term financial challenges for both parents. What most people don’t talk about is overspending when it comes to their children.
If you don’t spend a lot of time with your kids, you may feel a need to spend more than your budget allows for outings, gifts, and vacations.
Today you might be the hero while the other parent struggles to pay for basic needs but the kids will come to expect this lifestyle. If it’s not the lifestyle they had before the divorce, they may see it as the new normal. You could end up putting yourself in dire financial straits just to please your now-spoiled children.
It’s not good for your financial future and it’s not good for the kids to have unrealistic expectations of what you can provide.
Whether it’s time, rules, or money, you’re creating a situation, whether you meant to or not, where your actions could be seen as intentionally using the children as pawns with your ex.
“Daddy loves us more because he buys us more stuff.”
“Mommy lets us go to bed whenever we want.”
The Best Parents Win
Whether you’re spending money or breaking the rules, in the long run it will hurt your kids emotionally and even financially to try to win the affections of your children. As hard as it might be, your kids will appreciate you more for setting boundaries and loving them through a tough situation.
Ultimately the only way to “win” is not to have a contest with your ex at all.
Be the parent your children need you to be, not the one they want you to be. It may be hard to be a disciplinarian when you don’t get to see them often but you owe it to them and yourself to be the best parent you can be – this means doing the right thing even when you don’t want to.
Engaging with an attorney to protect your family is never an easy step. Whether you need to protect your family from the unthinkable or restructure your family through collaborative divorce, we’re here to help. When you’re ready to schedule a consultation with Michelle Ogborne, please visit the scheduling page to get started.