Post-divorce parenting tips and strategies - All Woman

Post-divorce parenting tips and strategies All Woman Monday, November 02, 2015 , By KIMBERLEY HIBBERT

HAVING a cordial relationship with your ex-husband or boyfriend can be difficult, but if children are involved it is important to find mutual ground.

Dr Patrece Charles, chief executive officer of the National Parenting Support Commission, said in such situations, the non-custodial parent usually experiences the most discomfort and finds it difficult adjusting to the new schedule to see their children.

But she said despite the differences, parents must realise that their children come first and as such act in favour of their best interest.

"So if it's an amicable separation parents need to work out a way to see their children. If it's not, they need to put their children first and act in their best interest. No matter the situation, put your child first, because they are your priority. It's not about you," she said.

Below Dr Charles outlines things that should be considered when parenting after a divorce or break-up.

1. Do your best to answer questions

Dr Charles said children need to understand what's going on with their parents when they separate so they can better deal with the situation. "Keep the honesty in a very age-appropriate way. Children don't need to be drawn into the drama of an argument. So if there's infidelity or financial issues involved, keep it very simple like, 'Mommy and daddy aren't able to stay together'. Do your best to answer their questions. You don't want to get them too involved and you don't want to give an unrealistic answer as to why the person is gone away," she said.

2. Reassure them

She said a child's world is completely changed when parents separate. "Your child needs to feel they are not alone and that both parents want to be in their lives," she said.

3. Be conscious of what you say around them.

Each parent should do their best to protect the children from adult and emotional issues. "Be conscious about what you say in front of your children. Don't put down the other person. You don't want them to hear arguments or certain discussions. Ensure you say it to the wider family. Keep it clean and simple; don't discuss and take sides, especially in the presence of the children," she said.

4. Don't wait to be questioned

"Ask them how they're feeling; reassure them. Let them know they can come to you and ask a question and express if they are angry or sad," Dr Charles said.

5. Seek family counselling

Dr Charles mentioned that there are some situations where parents can't come to a mutual understanding as to how to take care of the children, and family counselling may be needed. "A mediator is always there. Even if it's a friend that's not going to be biased, try and get help. Both parties can agree who the individual can be and ensure it's someone who's not involved with the family and won't take sides," she said.

6. Set rules and regulations

According to Dr Charles, structure should be established in both homes. "What takes place at one home should take place at the other. You don't want the child to pit one parent against the other. For example, if a parent disciplines a child and the child is grounded, when they go to the other parent it should be an agreement that the punishment still stays," she said.

7. Have provisions for children at each home

"Double up," Dr Charles said. She explained that it is difficult for a child to pack a bag every time and they will eventually feel displaced. She suggested that parents split the items or buy new items that when children leave for either parent it's like walking into their home." You want them to feel as little displacement as possible," she said.