What Will You Do To Be The Preferred Parent In Divorce?

rulesetting.jpgMore and more Nebraska families with children are single-parent families. According to the 2014 Kids Count Report, “one of the most troubling trends for child well-being is the steady decline in the percentage of children living with two married parents.” 2013 data indicates, 131,000 or 30% of Nebraska children lived in single parent homes. In 2012, nationally, 35 percent of children were living with a single parent, with about half of all children spending a portion of their childhood in a single-parent home.

It is natural when single parents are hurting, to want to be the parent who the children prefers to be with. Children learn quickly which parent will say “yes” and which parent will say “no” to specific requests. It is easy for children to create “competition” between parents about who will provide the most things or which parent will lighten up on the rules in order to be “the preferred parent.” During divorce and custody, parents typically have less time to spend with their children and less money to buy children the things they need and or want.

For these reasons co-parents want to give children additional gifts, stretch the rules and plan special experiences. It is typical for one parent to have more discretionary income than the other. When parents try to gain their child’s love by providing stuff, entertainment, and unjustified privileges children may become manipulative and feel entitled. Here are a few strategies which create cooperation in which the children and parents both benefit.

  • Come up with an agreement with the other parent about how much stuff children really need. Flexibility is also important.
  • If one parent, or possibly grandparents are able to provide “the extras” such as violin lessons and soccer shoes, the co-parent can “reframe” and feel grateful rather than feeling inadequate.
  • It is OK to say “It is not in my budget” in a kind way which lets the kids know you are appreciative about what the other parent is able to provide.
  • Plan family time to communicate and teach life skills. These may include family meals, homework, household chores, pick-up basketball games or going to the park.
  • Provide the “extras” such as a new bicycle or a concert ticket on special occasions. This will create special memories, and minimize the sense of entitlement.
  • Set at least 6 rules that both homes will stick to so there is consistence between houses. The more guidelines or rules that both houses can agree on, the easier it will be for both parents as well as children.

Continue to strive for cooperative relationships with your co-parent to best meet the unique needs of each of your children. It’s not easy, however it is worth it.

Click here for additional information about creating peaceful solutions for children and parents who are experiencing divorce, separation or custody transitions.

Gail Brand, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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How To Talk To Your Child About Divorce

Father Holding Daughter's Hand

Talking to children about divorce is difficult. Many children find out that their parents are getting a divorce from other children or adults. This causes children to lose trust in their parents. The following tips can help both the child and parents with the challenge and stress of these conversations:

  • Do not keep the divorce a secret or wait until the last minute.
  • Take time to tell your child together.
  • Keep things simple and straightforward. Use age appropriate language.
  • Tell them the divorce is not their fault.
  • Admit that this will be sad and upsetting for everyone.
  • Reassure your child that you both still love them and will always be their parents.
    • Note:  It is important when talking to young children to not use the term love in this content, “I don’t love your father/mother anymore.”  Use the term you are not getting along anymore and it would be better if you lived in separate houses.  Leave the word “love” for how you will always love them (the child/children).  Otherwise they see you did love the other parent and now you don’t. Does that mean that you might not love me (the child) in the future too!
  • Do not discuss each other’s faults or problems with the child.
    • Note:  This can be very hurtful to your child.  Remember they are a part of both of you. In fact, it may be easy for them to criticize the other parent, but don’t join in because it still hurts them to hear criticism about the other parent.

An open communication between you and your child is very important while going through divorce.  It is always good to check with your child on how they are feeling.

Click here for more information on divorce and separation.

Gail Brand, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

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