In most cases divorce is a life-shock event. Mothers who have been awarded custody are left with the major responsibility regarding parenting. Fathers on the other hand, usually lose their home, their security and comfort zone as well as their role with the children.
Many parents are threatened if a third party is involved and coming to a custody agreement is contaminated by feelings of anger and resentment. This often results in a protracted and drawn out legal battle that is very costly. Often, the child´s best interest takes a back seat.
When this happens, the problem is exacerbated as the lawyers involved are working for their client rather than in the best interest of the child. If custody is contested, children are sent for a battery of assessments which often leaves them more insecure and unable to cope.
The fact that both parents have a legal right to have access to their child means that they need to put their own emotional issues aside, work together as parents, and act in their child´s best interest.
Access arrangements that are in the best interest of the child should be the non-custodian having the child every second weekend from the Friday evening to Monday morning, and perhaps having the child over for a meal during the week where they won´t be seeing the child on the following weekend.
Rather than becoming embroiled in a costly custody battle, parents should agree to some form of mediation to help them resolve custody and access arrangements. They also need to ensure that their child feels no animosity between them and that the structures, rules and routine are similar in both households.
‘Parenting Decoded’ my book which has recently been published gives practical guidelines on how to accomplish this.
Parenting children from Broken Homes
Whether you´re a single parent, step-parent, foster parent or a parent of an adopted child, the skills needed to manage these children are all similar. Click here to find out more
What’s in the Child’s Best Interest?
In a divorce, the issues that the parents had culminating in the breakdown of the marriage is one thing, parenting the children is a management job and should have nothing to do wit the emotional issues that led to the breakdown of the marriage or relationship. If parents place their child’s best interest first, there should be no reason why the child should not cope going forward. Raising kids as a single parent can be a challenge but with the correct guidance it certainly can be rewarding.
The best interest of the child has to be considered when agreeing, or disagreeing on custody and access arrangements.
Insights and Guidance regarding Divorce
• A child’s major need is to feel safe and secure. It is up to the parent to ensure that these needs of their child are met. Children up to the age of 8 or 9 are concrete in their thinking and cannot understand abstract concepts such as divorce or ‘daddy’s having an affair’.
• In order for the child to cope, they need to feel safe when in the company of both parents. No child likes to act as a go-between passing messages from one parent to the other.
• Many parents tend to over-compensate and become over-involved with their children post-divorce. Parenting is a managing job and it’s important that parents don’t develop a co-dependent relationship with their child.
• Children must sleep in their own beds, play with friends and have a structure whereby they have routine and responsibilities. Behaviour problems and tantrums can be easily dealt with…find out more
• It is important to ensure that children of divorced parents do not feel responsible for their custodian parent’s emotional well-being. Children feel totally helpless when they see their mother crying, irritable and often in a mood.
• This helplessness can impact on their behaviour and they may act out, resulting in the mother becoming more anxious and insecure. Often, the more anxious and insecure the mother, the more the problem with the child is exacerbated.
N.B. Be a parent and not a friend to your children
Benefits of the SmartChoiceParenting Programme (SCPP)
When dealing with divorced couples I suggest that they attend the SmartChoiceParenting programme (SCPP) as the practical skills that they garner from the course enables them to parent from the same page. If these parents are involved in another relationship or have re-married, I encourage them to bring their partners along. The SCPP is also available via Skype.
It is important for divorced parents not to feel threatened when their ex becomes involved in a new relationship. This does not mean that the new partner is going to usurp or replace the other biological parent.
What it does mean is that this new partner should be recognised as the authority figure in his/her home and should be totally involved in the parenting of the step-child.