Parenting During and After Divorce

Parenting January 22, 2014 Print Friendly and PDF

Parents help children adjust to divorce better when they show respect for the fact that the child is now a member of two families.

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).

girl between two parents

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:

  • Taking care of your own health.
  • Making parenting your first priority.
  • Working to become financially independent.
  • Remaining in the parenting role with your children.
  • Learning to manage family, work, and personal time.
  • Using discipline that is not too permissive or too rigid.
  • Maintaining family rituals or traditions as appropriate and develop new ones.
  • Viewing parenting with your former spouse as a business relationship. Read more about this.

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:

  • Volunteer in your child’s school.
  • Set a time each week to call your child.
  • Use email and texting to keep in contact with your child.
  • Ask the other parent to help keep you informed of your child’s activities.
  • Ask your child’s school to add you to the mailing list for grades and newsletters.
  • Talk to your child’s teacher and let him/her know that you want to help your child be successful in school.
  • Let your child’s sports coaches, club advisors, etc. know you want to receive information on schedules and activities.

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.


This is where you can find research-based information from America's land-grant universities enabled by



This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.