After a divorce, many parental relationships are strained due to the bruised egos and feelings of failure. However, divorce, as well as separation, is much harder on the kids, as they don’t understand all of the details or why everything has changed.
How to Build or Maintain a Good Relationship with Your Children after Divorce
It takes more work when trying to keep children’s worlds from turning upside down and staying that way after divorce. They have many feelings that they suppress at younger ages, or they may have outbursts of anger at the changing situation. All of their reactions make both parents feel inadequate in maintaining a good relationship. Fortunately, there are many tips on ways to maintain a good relationship with children after divorce.
1. Don’t Discuss Adult Issues with Children
Your children aren’t the ones that caused the divorce and are too young to realize that each ex-spouse may have less income that leads to major stress. Kids don’t need to hear about the things they can’t have anymore because the custodial parent can’t pay for it by himself or herself.
2. Never Speak Badly about Your Ex in Front of Your Kids
When children hear parents that are married arguing, it upsets them too. After a divorce, each parent should try to maintain a relationship more as a friend of the other without arguing or fighting in front of the kids. This type of behavior tends to upset kids more and can lead to unhealthy reactions of all kinds.
3. Don’t Ask Your Children About Your Ex
When the children go for a visit with the non-custodial parent, don’t ask specifically about your ex. It’s okay to ask them what they did or where they went on their visit, but leave out asking for personal details on the other parent. In the same sense, the non-custodial parent shouldn’t dig for personal information on their ex. There is a two-fold reason for this: kids may misinterpret something and tell the other parent something that isn’t quite correct or more from their point of view, which may not be true. This is the beginning of pitting your children against your ex, which should never be done.
4. Stay in Close Contact with Your Kids
In this day of technology, even the youngest kids are involved in the digital world. You can Skype children, even if they are very young, so they can see and hear you. For older children, keep your lines of communication open to where they can email you or Facebook you at any time. This allows them to have a more regular relationship – like when their parents were married. You can also schedule regular phone calls that work well with everyone’s schedule at a time when both households are calm.
Ask your kids questions that are pertinent to their age level. Younger children pretty much go to school and go home, but you can ask about their favorite subject in school that they excel in to keep in the know. Ask older children what they did fun or talk about movies you watched together.
5. Attend Your Children’s Extracurricular Activities
As often as you possibly can, strive to attend most or all of your kids’ extracurricular activities. Whether it is sports, dance lessons, school-related field trips or music recitals, make it a point to be there. If only one parent shows up and takes interest in these activities, the children will regret that the other parent is not there and this will cause more stress in the relationship.
6. Make the Kids Your Main Focus
When you have parenting time with your kids, keep anything that will divert your attention away from them to a minimum. Kids actually love to do simple things with their parents – such as play games, go to the park, or shop for and then cook a kid-friendly meal. The chances are that if they shop and cook with you, they will be less picky eaters and have fun with food.
7. Invite Their Friends to Activities and Events
Children often talk to their friends about a divorce. Their friends are a part of their support system and as such, it is a good idea to invite their friends to go places with you. Whether it’s a camping trip over a weekend, going to a theme park or just going to a movie, it will help your kids to become more secure in their newfound parental relationships.
8. Spend as Much Time as Possible with Kids
Try not to use a babysitter or a daycare if at all possible. If you have some event you must attend and it falls on the time when your kids are with you, try asking your ex to watch the children rather than having a babysitter do so. This can help to build the new, post-divorce family’s dynamics and make your kids feel more secure.
9. Don’t Send Messages via Your Children
Don’t ask a child to relay information to the other parent. This can cause friction in the entire relationship. Your children aren’t pawns and shouldn’t be treated as such. Kids need to be just kids and not messengers. Asking your kids to relay messages can cause them to feel as if they need to take sides with one parent or another, which is a very unhealthy relationship.
10. Listen with Open Ears
Make sure your kids realize that you are concerned with every aspect of their lives. When they are communicating with you, give them your undivided attention to show how important their words are to you. You can try to guide younger children, but teenagers may push back. Don’t try to control a teenager in a divorce situation, but instead listen to their worries and try to teach them how to solve problems on their own.
11. Be Predictable and Consistent
Make sure that you pick up or take home the children on the time you should be there. If parents are even a few minutes late, the children will likely know, even if they can’t tell time yet. The stress of divorce is hard enough on all persons involved without extra stress from tardiness.
Following these tips can help you to maintain a great relationship with children after divorce. After all, everyone loses a lot in a divorce, but the biggest loss to a parent is a child and the biggest loss to a child is a parent. Live your life in a manner that guides your children to be understanding, caring, and committed just as you are to a great relationship.