Parenting is one of the most challenging experiences any adult will face, but co-parenting can be particularly tough. Emotions are high after a divorce or separation, and even if you’re ongood terms with your ex, you might find that you struggle to agree on decisions impacting the future of your child. In the midst of heated times, some parents with the best of intentions accidentally act on impulse, handle things in a dangerous way, or respond thoughtlessly, which can be traumatic for the child.
Being aware of common issues that newly single fathers face might help you to adjust your decisions and attitudes more appropriately in the moment. Ultimately, parenting after divorce is a day-by-day experience, and it’s up to you and your child’s mother to make sure you’re doing everything you can to help your children cope. Here, we’ll look at what you shouldn’t be doing after the debris settles from your divorce.
1. Don’t Make Your Child Your Messenger
Communicating with your ex after a divorce is hard. Even if the split was mutual, you’re likely to feel raw, vulnerable, and upset. It’s tempting, in these situations, to ask your child to convey messages on your behalf, so you can avoid the experience. Unfortunately, this places undue strain on your child, and forces them to negotiate matters that they may not know how to handle.
If you feel as though you can’t handle speaking to your child’s mother face-to-face, then consider sending them a text message or an email to start. However, in some cases, you’ll simply have to take a deep breath and push through the unpleasant experience for the best interests of your child.
2. Don’t ‘Badmouth’ Your Ex
Divorces don’t always end amicably. Sometimes, you might leave a courtroom or lawyer’s office feeling angry and bitter. However, it’s important to try and mute those emotions in front of your child. While it’s O.K. to show children that you’re feeling emotional, try to minimize your anger. Do not say anything bad about your co-parent in front of your child, as this can put them in a tough position, and make them feel as though they’re expected to dislike their mother to gain your approval.
Remember to be careful about the conversations you have around children, too. They can easily overhear the things you say on the phone, in conversations with friends, or even when you’re muttering to yourself.
3. Don’t Overindulge Your Child
A divorce can be a traumatizing experience for a child. Often, parents are left feeling guilty about subjecting their child to such a difficult event. As a result, some parents will overindulge their child, buying them gifts and letting them get their way whenever they want in an effort to compensate. Although it might feel good at the time, it’s not doing your child any favors in the long run, as it might teach them to have unrealistic expectations.
Similarly, try not to indulge your child as a way of getting a leg-up on your ex. Don’t try to identify yourself as the “fun” parent by buying your child more stuff. Children want love and support from both parents, if they begin to see their parents competing over them, this can lead to emotional problems.
4. Don’t Expect Too Much From Your Child
As a parent going through a difficult emotional experience, it can be tempting to lean on your child for emotional support and guidance. Unfortunately, your child doesn’t have the emotional strength to help you get through this difficult time. Children can struggle just as badly as adults during a divorce, and it’s unfair to expect them to support you. As a father, it’s always your responsibility to care for your child, not the other way around.
Some parents subconsciously ask their child to fill in for their former spouse at home, asking them to prepare meals, do housework, and more. While there’s nothing wrong with asking your child to continue their regular chores and help out sometimes, be careful about placing too much pressure on them. Your children need to see that you have the strength to cope without leaning on them.
5. Don’t Make Your Child Choose
Finally, in some cases, rather than having to deal with the complexity of mediation and visitation arguments, parents leave it up to their children to choose where they want to live, and which parent to spend the most time with. Sometimes, it’s easy to think that you’re doing your child a favor this way by allowing them to make their own decisions. However, this is a decision far too important and complicated for a child to make, and there can be hurt feelings all around if they do make this decision.
Don’t leave important co-parenting decisions up to your kids. Everything from visitation to where the child should spend the holiday should be handled by you and your child’s mother.