Whether you care to admit it or not, your relationship with your child will change after you and their other parent get a divorce. There is no way to escape this reality. In some ways the manner that you relate to your child as well as the way that he or she relates to you will be different. For how long or to what degree is an individual question that I cannot answer in this format. However, rest assured that no matter how strong the relationship you have with your child is, once you and your spouse divorce the nature of that relationship will be put to the test.
As the parent you need to take the lead and do the heavy lifting in helping your child transition from a two parent household to a one parent household. How well you help him or her in this adaptation process will determine the quality of life that your child experiences in the years following divorce.
If it sounds like a rather large responsibility that you have as a result then you would not be mistaken. I cannot emphasize enough just how important it is for you to be able to help your child adjust as seamlessly as possibly to your new life. To begin today’s blog post from the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, let’s examine the nature of the parent-child relationship after your divorce.
How to help the transition for your child if you are the custodial parent
If you were named as the parent with the right to determine the primary residence of your child in your divorce then you will have more possession and access to your child than your ex-spouse. Not an overwhelmingly amount of increased possession time but enough to be able to have specific responsibilities assigned to you. Your continual and daily involvement in your child’s activities will play an integral role in helping your child transition into post-divorce life.
You need to be an involved, warm, loving and steady presence in your child’s life during this stage. You may be hurting and that is fine. However, it is a balancing act that you must learn to manage quickly. Helping yourself get through this time is important, but in my opinion your ability to help your child adapt is even more important.
This does not mean doing exactly what your child wants or spending a ton of money on a new (insert name of cool toy or game here). It means being available to your child to talk if he or she wants, and overall making sure that your child is able to complete their school work and is held accountable for their actions.
Children sense unease and transition well and can use that to act out in ways that they may not have done previously. Their sense is that because everyone is adjusting to new roles it will not be noticed if they act poorly or disrespectfully. You can instill a sense in your child that everything is going to be fine by making sure your child is aware that discipline is still a part of your relationship. This is not you being overbearing or “mean”. It is you acknowledging your role and your child’s role in your family structure.
With that said, your weekends with your child cannot turn into a free for all where the rules that your child has been learning at your ex-spouse’s home are thrown out the window in favor of a Lord of the Flies type life-structure. While your child is with you in your home you will need to work with your ex-spouse to communicate about what your child needs in terms of discipline, support, love and help with school work.
Hopefully you and your ex-spouse can at least agree on methods of discipline and what your focus needs to be in that regard. This all goes back to putting your own pride and ego on the backburner and focusing instead on what is best for your child. If you do this I’m reasonably sure that you will arrive at similar conclusions at least in regard to the subject of appropriate disciplinary techniques and objectives.
Finally- take the time (when work allows) to attend extracurricular events like band performances, sporting events and other activities. Your child will love to see you take time out of your day to attend activities that are important to him or her. While you cannot always be with your child, you can always make an effort to make sure you are an involved part of their life.
How can you care for yourself so you can also care for your child?
A divorce means that your support system was likely cut in half and that you will feel like you are operating without a safety net beneath you. Your income has been cut in half by losing your spouse and your life circumstances may initially seem to be more dire as a result. You are experiencing all of this unease at the same time that your child is experiencing their own set of difficulties. You will need to find a way to manage your own experiences while helping your child adjust to a new way of life.
While it may seem hard to do, I would recommend that you find some time each day to do something that you enjoy. Whether it is reading, having a cup of coffee, watching television, going for a walk or giving a phone call to a friend, you need to be able to feel centered in a time where your life may otherwise be in turmoil. Being active as far as exercise is concerned as well as eating well can help your mood on a day to day basis and will ensure you have the energy to meet increased demands at work and at home.
An added benefit of engaging in these type of healthy and productive habits is that your child can join you and learn from you how to take up and practice activities that will benefit them in life. Involve your extended family and your child’s friends and you have the double benefit of showing your child that he or she has many people in their life that cares deeply about them.
If these sort of activities do not make you feel better or leave you still feeling like you need more assistance do not hesitate to reach out for professional care from a therapist or counselor. There is no shame in taking this step and admitting to yourself that you need help. Getting the assistance that you need now rather than years down the line is beneficial to you and your child. Imagine all the time lost that you could have been enjoying your life and helping your child to enjoy theirs if you wait to seek professional help. Again, put your ego aside and seek the care that will help you and therefore help your child as well.
How to watch for specific behaviors in your child- and how to respond- tomorrow’s blog post topic
Children display some common behaviors in response to the transition to having divorced parents. In tomorrow’s blog post we will discuss some of those behaviors and will recommend actions that you can take in response.
If you have any questions for the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC please do not hesitate to contact us today. We offer free of charge consultations with licensed family law attorneys. Our attorneys represent clients across southeast Texas and are eager to show you how our office can help you and your family.