You may think it’s hard to parent a child as a married couple. It’s even harder when you’re divorced.
Differing views of child-rearing get mixed with your desire for control. You’d like to dictate how your ex-wife handles your son or daughter, but you can’t.
Frustration results. You’re tempted to lecture her on her parenting mistakes. Will she listen? Ha! You’re divorced, buddy.
You think she didn’t listen to you during marriage? She really won’t listen to you now, especially on a volatile issue like parenting.
Learn to give up 24/7 control of your child after a divorce. Assuming your ex-wife has some custody rights, you simply have to step back when your child is with her.
Unless she’s abusing or neglecting your child, she has a legal right to parent him or her as she sees fit. That’s a tough pill to swallow for control freaks. Frankly, I tend to be one.
I’ve had primary custody of my 12-year-old son, Connor, since his mom and I divorced a decade ago. Although I may consult her, I’m ultimately responsible for critical issues, such as his education and medical care.
As a result, I tend to think I know what’s best for Connor in all arenas. He’s with his mom primarily on the weekends. I’m tempted to get upset if I find out he stayed up too late on Sunday, a school night. Or if he didn’t eat right. Or if he played too many video games. Or if he didn’t brush his teeth. On and on.
Especially in the first few years after our divorce, I’d obsess over how my ex was treating Connor when I wasn’t around.
I don’t mean to imply that she was being a bad parent. I just didn’t know – and I disliked the uncertainty. If you’re divorced and have children, you can relate.
You can’t make all the parenting decisions
You need a break from your child, and your ex needs some time with him or her. Learn to relax. Trust that your ex is doing a good job when she’s the primary parent. Avoid the temptation to interrogate your child about his or her time at Mom’s house.
If you have evidence that your ex is endangering your child, jump in. Confront her if you must. In extreme cases, contact authorities. But most likely, you’re simply disagreeing with some parenting decisions that aren’t life-threatening.
Accept the fact that you and your ex will never be in total agreement on how to raise your child. Remember, you’re divorced. Of course you disagree.
Over time, each parent’s desire for control should lessen. You should be able to have civil discussions about key decisions involving your son or daughter.
In short, you’ll become better co-parents. You may have different parenting styles, but you’ll focus on the common goal: to raise a responsible, caring child.
“Co-parenting requires empathy, patience and open communication for success,” writes psychologist Deborah Serami in Psychology Today. “Not an easy thing to achieve for couples who’ve encountered marital issues.”
Don’t despair if you and your ex disagree early on over your parenting actions. But don’t let the disagreements escalate into fights.
If you do, your son or daughter will see the tug of war over control and feel he or she must take sides. Instead, you want your child to see two mature adults who want what’s best for them.
Give up some control, and you’ll be a better co-parent.
Parenting in a marriage and parenting after divorce are very different. You probably won’t be a great co-parent as soon as the divorce is final. Give yourself – and your ex – time to adjust to the new parenting roles. If you refuse to adapt, you’ll make yourself miserable and your ex-wife angry. And your child will suffer.