Just so you know, playing the single parenting card against your ex will always result in a loser....your child. Now isn’t that a sobering thought.
If you are a single parent like me, today's blog entry may sting a bit or touch areas that are still unhealed wounds and unresolved. If it stings, just say ouch but keep reading, no one's going to know and if the truth be told, whoever was at fault at the time of your relationship breakdown or divorce, there really isn't any easy way to break someone's heart.
Do you want a game of Chess?
A lot of parents divorce or separate simply because they do not want or know how to communicate with one another properly. However, as parents you still have to remain in contact with each other if you have children as a result of that marriage.
One thing that is absolutely essential is, if like me you are a single parent, you must prevent yourself from using your child or children as Chess pieces or Darts on the Dart board, during and even after your separation or divorce.
Unfortunately too many of us as parents have done this in the past or do this now. Let me tell you straight up, you may not have known at the time but unfortunately your children are those who suffer because of it. Sorry to have to break it to you like this, but I did tell you today’s post was going to be an “ouch’ moment for all my Believe and Live Again parents out there.
“Why do you want to talk to your Dad?”
Attempting to keep your children from seeing their other parent as a way to get back at this parent for all the hurt they have put you through is common. Many parents have been known to resort to sending their children on “guilt” trips or turn on the water works at the slightest hint that their children want to see or be with the other parent. Yes, I know sometimes children can be hurtful and manipulative, especially when you have had to discipline them. But always remember, you are the adult and even when they are mad at you, they are watching your every move, decision and utterance and will hold you to account. Quite frankly, as I have learnt, you can’t afford to get this wrong. It is not something you can easily succeed at in practical terms without help. For me, my help came from God and the Holy Spirit. For you it might be the same or some other anchor. Whatever the case may be, this is one battle you cannot win with shouting matches, whatever your belief system is - you need to call out to it. I called out to God because I know he has never failed me yet.
Goal Number 1 - Better not Bitter
It is important that you realise as soon as you can, that one of your key goals as part of your positive transformation and healing journey must be to have a fulfilling and rich post divorce lifestyle. This means you must transition as a person from Bitter to Better. This is one of the guaranteed outcomes of signing up with the Believe and Live Again Post Divorce Life Style Programme.
Using children in the cross fire of divorce is a way that many bitter divorced couples punish each other. Yet the children are the ones who suffer from it, because they are missing out on that relationship. Unless there has been a history of abuse or the other parent is unfit in some way
to have the children alone, you need to let them go at the agreed visitation times.
“Does Daddy still Love me?”
Does Daddy still love me? I got that question almost every day at one stage from my older daughter, years ago when she was about 9. I would always answer yes and did my best to reassure her, but she would then ask, “Then why doesn’t he live with us anymore? Is it because of me, Is it my fault?” At that I would inwardly groan silently to myself while smiling a bit too sweetly at her, “I am here aren’t I? I love you, doesn’t that count for anything? Of course I couldn’t say that to her, but by Jove! I thought it.
A lot of the time children miss the one parent when they are staying with the other, and this as painful as it might be to you as a parent, is quite normal. It does and can hurt the parent they are with. Yet it is vital to understand that children need and want to have unconditional love for both of their parents all the time. It is unfair and traumatic for them to have to take sides or made to feel as if they have done something wrong for still loving your ex spouse, when to your mind that person has become quite unlovable.
Opening up the Communication Channels
With a breakdown of a marriage or relationship, the children often feel abandoned when the two parent framework they are accustomed to falls apart. If this transition is not managed carefully, children may lose their confidence, become withdrawn, timid and sometimes could end up having serious behavioural issues.
If you haven’t done so yet, ensure you open up the communication channels between your children and their other parent, your ex. Get them a mobile phone and don’t - I repeat don’t try to listen in to their conversations, no matter how tempting this maybe, especially at the beginning of your divorce recovery where you may be feeling vulnerable and insecure. Your children will respect you more and thank you for it when they grow older. More importantly by doing this, it will go a long way to affirm them as individuals, feed their love language(s), give them a more stable upbringing, self worth, a sense of being appreciated, privacy, conveyance of trust and independence.
If your children are still at a young age, allowing them to call their other parent when they miss them or even as part of their bedtime routine is very good practise and can help to relieve their anxiety and bewilderment regarding the divorce or long term relationship breakdown. It will also enable them to feel free to look forward and enjoy that special time with each parent more.
The Power of Life and Death is in the Tongue.
Admittedly, our children do need to know what is going on as far as the divorce is concerned; but they don't need to know all of the details. It is crucial that you do all you can not to bring your ex spouse down in esteem in your children’s eyes.
Important and difficult issues that have to be discussed between the parents should be done privately either with each other or through a mediator. Remember that little ears can hear a great deal and rarely forget. So make sure they are not exposed to the many sensitive issues which may have occurred during the marriage or even as part of the divorce process.
Help!!! My child is....
When issues arise that involve your children, as difficult as it might be, you will need to work together to resolve them. When the parents are offering opposing solutions just to be difficult it hurts the child all the more and makes the situation even worse. A good example is where you may have a teenager in secondary school that has been playing truant from school. Here, both of you need to come up as a united front with a course of action to make them responsible. Failing to do so could turn it into an ongoing issue, regardless of how you may feel about each other, I am sure that is not the your desired result for your child. Remember that whatever may have transpired in your marriage that led to its breakdown, at all times, the interest of any children of the marriage is of paramount importance.
The favoured parent – a myth
Typically, you will find children of divorced parents are going to follow the guidelines of the parent that tends to support them on particular issues.
From a child's point of view this always seems a great perk to have. None the less, as the parent most favoured in this way, you need to tread carefully as this could potentially lead to many more issues down the road. In any case, as I have found it is a myth. Just try saying No to your teenage children...and you’ll get the famous “Daddy would have said YES” “Yeah right” as we would say here in London, of course he wouldn’t but that’s not the point. I think it’s some invisible way in which we are taught as parents not to be too smug or rest on our laurels. Children can often be fickle while growing up, even when two parents are in the home. Besides, we were all children once and did the same; it’s all part of going from a child into an adult.
So instead of using the children to score points with your ex spouse, try as much as it is expedient to do so, to explore ways to work as a team to do what is in their best interests.
Don’t shoot the messenger
Under no circumstance should you allow yourself to be passing messages to your ex spouse through your children. That is not their responsibility and too often these children are being told to say things they don't want to repeat. You also don't want to be asking your children for information when they return from a visit.
It is fine to ask them what they did and if they had a good time. However, you will be overstepping the boundaries if you are asking specific questions. They shouldn't have to tell you what was said, who was around and other juicy details of their time together with the other parent....that we all want to know (I haven’t cracked that one yet...Yes, I always want to know too hahaha.)
If you are having a hard time coming to terms with your divorce, get yourself a Post Divorce coach, a Mentor or even seek professional counselling if you feel it is beginning to affect your mental health. The important thing is seek HELP and get it now. Don’t for a single moment feel you are strong and you will snap out of it all by yourself....because you won’t. Don’t isolate yourself or be in denial, and please don’t ever be ashamed. We all need support, help and encouragement when we go through difficult life transitions. It is wise to seek help from people who have been in your shoes, understand what it is like and can even interpret the nuances of things you have left unsaid.
This will give you closure as you work through your emotions and set goals for your future. At Believe and Live Again we have a number of programmes, 1 to 1's and workshops tailored to helping you do just that.
The end game is that you don’t spend the rest of your life dwelling on what has taken place or suppress your feelings. Be enabled and empowered to move on so that you have a good life will ensure you are there for your children in a positive way.
Here’s one last word of wisdom before I bow out for today. If you always stop to consider how your actions are going to affect your children before you engage in them, you are onto a winner regarding the single parenting game.
Remember you are indomitable and irrepressible in all you do and through all your life’s experiences, so till next time make sure you Believe and Live Again.