3 Practical Tips for Parenting Through Divorce

One of my favorite sayings of all time {mostly because I made it up} is that no one steps up to the altar thinking, “If this doesn’t work, I’ll just get a divorce.” It takes very little time blending a life with someone else’s. We fall in love, we talk about the future, we get engaged, we plan a wedding, and then we say those magical words:: I do. After that comes moving in {if that hasn’t already happened}, combining checking accounts {optional}, and dreaming of how many children will fill the home. 

Somewhere between the magic of marriage and parenthood, arguments begin. The trash is never taken out. The dishwasher is not broken. I am not the only person living in this house. Resentment follows, but if the relationship is strong enough, it will stand the nitpicking arguments over who forgot to change baby #2’s diaper, or whose turn it is to fold the laundry. The quibbles die off, make ups ensue, and life goes on.

But that’s not always the case. Some relationships crack and sever. The chasm widens, and suddenly there are two people who used to love each other, who have littles as a testament of that former love, but who now face the idea of divorce and all the “what ifs” involved.

Divorce does something to people, though. It makes them think in terms of theirs and mine. Who gets the house? Who gets the car? Who gets the TV? Who gets the sofa? How much money do they get? How much money do get?

And, the kids?

They’re mine.

It’s dangerous, that thinking, but it’s a testament to the human mind. We resent that person. We wish nothing but harm upon them. We want our fair share, and most of us moms {if we’re honest with ourselves} think that carrying a child for 9+ months automatically makes us the only person capable of being a parent. We’re the primary caregiver, the expert at all things boo boo; we are there for everything, and we’re the only parent who matters. Sometimes, we think that so much that we forget to consider the only person who matters:: the child.

I know. I’ve been there. That thinking is born out of fear :: fear of losing our child to the other parent, fear of what parenting looks like after divorce, fear of how the other parent will treat the child, and fear of how the other parent will treat us

Having been a divorced mom for six years, here are three tips I’ve learned for parenting through divorce.

1. Your child is not a weapon.

The other parent just spoke to us in a negative voice. We got an email or text message from the other parent that ticked us off. His lawyer isn’t playing fair, or we just don’t like the other parent that week. 

And then our cell phone rings, and it’s the other parent, calling to speak to the child.

How dare the other parent call when we’re mad, amiright? Natural instinct tells us to push the phone to voicemail, to ignore the call altogether. 

Don’t. Not answering the phone is a self-serving tactic meant to keep the child from their parent. Just because we’re angry at the other parent doesn’t mean the child needs to suffer through less contact. The child doesn’t know we’re angry; the child doesn’t know why we’re angry–and he or she should never know. What the child does know is that the other parent is important and loved.

I have always believed that visitation is the minimum time a child can spend with the other parent, especially in Texas. Something we should always do and remember is to make it as easy as possible for the other parent to have access to the child. That was the first thing my lawyer told me, and it’s what I’ll remember forever. 

2. Promote the other parent to your child.

Oh, man. This is rough. The other parent just introduced the children to a new love interest, or worse–the person they left us for. The other parent just got a raise, but they owe four months in child support, or they are refusing to pay medical bills for the third year in a row. The other parent just threatened us with sole custody, or threatened to take “as much time as possible” away. We want revenge. We want justice. And, in that moment, who happens to walk in the room and ask when they get to see the other parent again?

That’s right; those little buggers are so keen to choose the wrong moment to ask us about the person we’re currently involved in hating with all our heart. What do we do, as parents?

Slap on a smile, consult a calendar, and tell the kids that they’ll see the other parent this Thursday, or next weekend. Ask them if they want to call the other parent for a quick hello, since they seem to be missing the other parent in that moment. Remind them of an upcoming event where the other parent will show up: a school play, a church recital, or a birthday party.

Never ever, ever tell the child that the other parent is a bad person, paint the other parent in a bad light, or tell the child about adult problems happening between the two of you. They’re only little once, and they should have the blind ability to love both of you equally–just as they want to do.

3. Co-parent, no matter what.

If the first two were hard, this one may seem impossible. I have been co-parenting one-sided with a parent who won’t tell me he sent our child to school after our child spent the night throwing up, or refuses to tell me when he plans to drive four hours away on his weekend with our child. To me, those are important events that the other parent should know about, and I willingly share those moments with him. So, when I say “co-parent, no matter what,” I mean it. It is up to us to do what’s best for the child, and what’s best for the child is for the other parent to be involved, as well as in the know.

What should be told? Well, what would you want to know–what would you appreciate being told? What do you expect the other parent to tell you when the child is with that parent? Start there. 

Some divorced relationships are caustic and high-conflict, and informing the other parent might lead to more tension, but there are parallel parenting strategies that mirror co-parenting, like updating a shared calendar, or writing important things down in a notebook that moves between the homes. 

It is so hard to realize that, after the marriage dissolves, our life with our children will look different. We don’t want it to, and sometimes our greatest wish is to punish the other parent through strategies meant to limit time with the child. They may have hurt us in some way during the marriage, or the fact that they still breathe air might irritate us to no end. Guess who still loves them? The child. Those little humans have no idea {and shouldn’t} why the parents are choosing to divorce. 

Parenting through divorce, however, means allowing our children to remain children, to foster their relationship with the other parent, and to keep the other parent informed of important events concerning the child.

We are parents first, and our children’s overall well-being is what truly matters.

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J.M. hails from everywhere and nowhere, all at once. She is the product of a man who served his country well, and a mother who learned to wrangle three children, for thirteen years, across six military bases worldwide. She resides in Houston where she has established a wonderful life full of happiness and joy, while holding onto a multitude of time-consuming jobs. The one thing that brings warmth to her heart is her loving son Conner {September 2009}, whom she refers to as Tiny Tot. She is a proud alumna of Louisiana State University, where she served in many leadership positions, the most important of which was a Colorguard Captain in The Golden Band from Tigerland. Although her love of learning and literature produced a degree in education, she is currently an autotransfusionist and part-time professor for the Department of College Preparatory at San Jacinto. She enjoys sports photography and baking on the weekends, along with being a freelance writer, blogger, and writer of women’s fiction. Her most recent crowning achievement is her novel, A Soul Divided, which is available for purchase on Amazon.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you very much for this post. This was really refreshing to read from a women’s point of view, especially the part you mention about how visitation is the minimum time a child can spend with the non-custodial parent. My boyfriend has a toddler daughter and pays max child support. He is forced to be a “every other weekend” dad because his ex-wife sticks to the divorce decree by the minute and refuses to grant any additional time. He asks for time all the time but he is denied every single time and has to watch his daughter go to daycare and be in the care of others. The ex-wife counts doctor’s visits as his makeup time when he misses his two hour weekday visitation due to traveling for work. He tries to FaceTime his daughter every night but the other side does not pick up or when she calls back, it’s a three minute phone call, not a Facetime. She refuses to share any information about his daughter’s diet, potty training, daily routine, etc which makes it more difficult to transition from household to household. I could go on and on but what the ex-wife doesn’t get is that it negatively affects her daughter but she refuses to see it. He has sent various articles on co-parenting with no success. It’s really heartbreaking to see and difficult to comprehend and what is sad is that it doesn’t have to be this way. I wish we could send this to the ex-wife so she can see the light.

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