1. Tell your children the truth, with simple explanations. Tell them where the other parent is.
2. Try your utmost, and I know this may be difficult, to refrain from bringing up grievances or speaking derogatorily about the other parent to or in front of your children.
3. Don't discuss financial, legal or other disputes with your children. If you can do it and not discuss these issues, trust me, you will save yourself a lot of unnecessary angst for your children as they grow up especially your older or oldest child who may have had to assume a more adult responsibility as a direct result of the divorce. I am currently working with a client whose 14 year old son spent a lot of his time doing online job searching so as to help pay the household bills rather than do his school homework.
4. Avoid saying anything, which might discourage your children from spending time with the other parent and from pressuring them to take sides.
5. Constantly reassure them that they will be taken care of, and be safe and secure; even though your marital love may have ended, parental love endures.
6. Spend as much time as possible with each child individually. From experience this one is a challenging one but you will soon see the need if you haven’t done so already. Each child will often use ploys to get your sole attention and may even guilt you into thinking you love one child more than another. As a single parent sharing your love and attention equally and fairly is indeed challenging especially when it comes to settling sibling rivalry and conflict. “It’s not fair” and “You love him more than you love me” or “How come when Jade did it you didn’t say anything” I hear it get’s easy as they grow into adulthood – I am almost there – phew!
7. On the presumption that you are on civil speaking terms with your ex spouse, keep agreements you make with him/her as the other parent, and be reliable and prompt, enabling the children to feel they can depend on and trust both parents. Avoid scheduling activities for the children, which may conflict with the visitation schedule, and if unable to keep the scheduled arrangements, notify the other parent as soon as possible. Now if you are not on speaking terms, this becomes trickier to navigate. From experience as the custodial parent for my two teen aged daughters, what I have done is to empower and give them more control to manage their own schedules and thereby encouraging a more independent relationship with their Father. Interestingly enough I have watched from the sidelines how they have successfully built up boundaries around their time and schedules, firmly communicating their availability for planned outings.
8. Don't use your children to get back at or send messages to your ex-spouse. Children in the crossfire get terribly wounded.
9. Children may feel responsible for the divorce or may try to bring parents back together. Let them know they are not to blame and that the decision is final.
10. It is a well documented fact that divorcing parents may feel guilty and overindulgent. My advice would be to set limits and boundaries with your children. Now this is something I wished I had done a bit more off, especially with regards to shopping sprees and holidays around the world. Well you win some and lose some .
11. Continue to be the parent and seek other adults to fill your relationship needs. Don't allow your child to become "man of the house" or "little mother". This advice is pivotal to helping your children grow into well adjusted responsible adults.
12. Arrange for both parents to be notified and be authorized to act in an emergency. Keep the other parent, school and nursery advised of your current residence address and telephone numbers.
13. Avoid arguments, fights and threats in the presence of your children, no matter how old they may be as the memories will be with them for a long time to come and could frighten and damage them, affecting their abilities to form their own healthy, well balanced relationships when they grow up.
14. One thing is for sure, you will continue to be parents throughout your life, make an intentional effort to set aside your personal feelings towards each other trying your utmost to maintain an attitude of tolerance, decorum and flexibility.
15. Patience is key - be patient with yourself and your children. This is an incredibly difficult time and so you are entitled to reach out for help and support.
Till Next Time, Keep Smiling, Keep Strong, Keep Believing