If you are divorcing or are recently divorced, it is vital that you keep your children's best interest in mind. It is often easy to loose your bearings as you are caught in a whirlwind of legal activity and emotional distress which all divorces bring. This turmoil can make it hard to determine if you are doing all you can do to for your child. So here are the top seven questions you should ask yourself to make sure you are still being the best parent you can be during a divorce.
1. Are you being there for your child? You will be drained and you will want to withdraw into yourself during a divorce, but your children need to know that you are still there for them and you will continue to provide emotional support during this time. Divorce is stressful on everyone and your child needs to know that you are there to answer their questions and help them process their painful feelings. You do not need to be instantly available 24/7, and everyone needs some mental downtime, but you must make it a point to generally be there when your children need some answers, or just some hugs.
2. Are you giving your kids needed encouragement and approval? Kids of all ages seek out the encouragement and approval of their parents. It is vital to their self esteem to know that you think of them often and are proud of them. Particularly at a time when they are submerged in self doubt over the divorce, you have to show them in both expressed and subtle ways that you think they are great. Be generous with your praise. Carry their pictures in your wallet and their drawings on your desk. Constantly stoke their self-esteem by praising them. Now more than ever, they need to be assured that they are worthy of being loved.
3. Are you treating your kids like people? Your kids are unique individuals with their own personalities, and perspectives. You need to be sensitive to their experience of the divorce and how they can be different from yours.
4. Are you trying to have a positive relationship with the other parent? Even though you feel you would be better off having less contact with your ex, or soon to be ex, spouse, this may not be what is best for your kids. Research has shown that children make the best recovery from divorce when both parents are actively involved in the children's life and the interaction is conflict free.
5. Are you modeling to your kids how to handle stress? Divorce is an extremely stressful time. If you demonstrate your ability to handle the stress of divorce without resorting to becoming violent, verbally abuse, or using drugs or alcohol, you kids will know that it is ok if you occasionally express anger and frustration. Kids need to see you handle stress without losing control. They then won't be fearful when you get angry.
6. Are you maintaining family and community ties? Chances are you kids are experiencing the loss of a full-time parent. They should be allowed to find the comfort of familiar surroundings and support such as scout leaders, church leaders, friends and neighbors. You may feel like you want to get away and start a new life from your old, but your children need the familiar ties of their community especially at this time.
7. Are you making every effort to peacefully resolve issues with your ex, or soon to be ex, spouse? Your kids will be less fearful and stressed if they see you and the other parent working cooperatively. If they observe examples of flexibility, consideration and cooperation, in resolving parenting issues, they will be less fearful that the aftermath of the divorce will be a never-ending battle of wills- with them in the middle.
Divorce is one of the most painfully stressful times in anyone's lives - and even the most well meaning of parents can fall into a spiral of emotion where they forget to keep their children's best interest at the front of their attention. When you find yourself in an emotional tailspin from divorce, ask yourself these seven questions to keep your perspective - and your focus on being the best parent you can to your children.