Parenting through and after divorce is different than parenting when both adults are in the home. Normal parenting challenges become harder during this time. Life is thrown out of balance. Parents and children may experience feelings of stress, loss, guilt, and/or anger. Most family members overcome this stressful event, but the process takes time.
Parenting Behaviors After Divorce that Help or Hurt
Making the transition through divorce is easier for the child when parents look at things through the child’s eyes. It's important to remember that the child is now a member of two families. Children do better when they are able to maintain their relationships with both parents (when it is safe for them to do so).
Children whose parents have a lot of conflict after the divorce have the hardest time. Parents can support their children best by keeping their arguments private, away from where children can hear them. This includes phone conversations.
Experiencing negative emotions about the other parent is normal. But it's important to avoid making negative comments about the other parent in front of the child. Children often feel a negative comment about the other parent reflects on them. After all, half of their DNA is from that parent! If a parent needs to vent, a good strategy is to seek support from another understanding adult.
Divorce Creates Two Single Parents
Successful single-parent families share some common parenting behaviors. These include:
Children are likely to spend more time at one parent’s home. This can be hard for the parent who does not have daily physical contact with the children. Here are some ways for nonresidential parents to stay involved:
Parenting during and after divorce is challenging. Parents can be successful. Most family members move on to live happy, healthy lives. Remember that working together with the other parent will help your children. It will also help you!
References on Parenting and Divorce
Ahrons, C. (1994). The good divorce: Keeping your family together when your marriage comes apart. New York: Harper Collins.
Bailey, S. J. (2007). Unraveling the meaning of family: Voices of divorced nonresidential parents. Marriage and Family Review, 42(1), 81-102.
Bailey, S. J. & Zvonkovic, A. M. (2003). Parenting from a distance: Parents’ perceptions of social and institutional support. Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 39(3/4) 59-80.
Author: Sandra J. Bailey, Professor and Extension Specialist at Montana State University.