How To Be An Effective Parent

Try not to upset their routine too abruptly. Children need a sense of continuity and it is disturbing to them if they must cope with too many changes all at once. Allow yourself and your children time for adjustments. Try to think of your children’s present and future emotional, mental, and physical well-being before acting. This will be difficult because of your own feelings, emotions, wants and desires, but it is extremely important to try.

Your family is reorganizing; meaning, you are disbanding the original organization (your nuclear in-tact family) and reforming into a new and different organization (two different parents, two different homes, two different lifestyles). Both you and your children will need time for many adjustments during this period of family reorganization.

Your children may have a tendency to hide their feelings because they believe sharing their hurts, sadness, anger, or confusion will upset you. You need to assure them their feelings are neither good nor bad, neither right nor wrong, they are feelings – and they are entitled to have their feelings without condemnation or judgment (and by the way, you are not responsible for “fixing” their feelings).

It may help your children if you buy a good book about divorce and children, ensuring it is age appropriate and written for children, and then read it together. Reading together about family reorganizations may help your children understand that they are not only not alone, that there are many children who have gone through what they are experiencing right now.

Your relationship with the other parent will last as long as you, your children, and the other parent are alive. You will have birthdays, holidays, graduations, marriages, deaths, grandchildren, and other types of activities which will keep you and the other parent connected. Your relationship with the other parent and your responsibilities to your children do not end with your divorce. Deal with these issues now and you will reap the rewards for the rest of your life.

One of the ways to be an effective parent is to spend time with your children. Although the adversarial family law system is intent on taking most of your time and money, there are inexpensive things you can do with your kids to stay in touch. The following are some simple things which you and your children can do together without having to take out a bank loan to finance your activities:

Activities A to Z

A. Walk the mall or the beach;
B. Plant a garden, plant flower pots;
C. Go to a sporting event together (professional or collegiate);
D. Play board games;
E. Go to a pet store, look, touch and play with the animals;
F. Take a drive or take a hike in the country or mountains;
G. Visit a zoo or a museum;
H. Play computer games together;
I. Do a craft together (build a birdhouse, a kite or model);
J. Read a book together and then talk about what you read;
K. Cook and bake something special together;
L. Visit your local library;
M. Find other single parents in the community and do things together with them and their children;
N. Go fishing together;
O. Have a “movie” day, picking out the movie together, watching the movie together, and talking about the movie together (of course you must include eating the required amount of popcorn all day too);
P. Make homemade ice cream;
Q. Have a “family” barbecue and invite the neighbors (or not);
R. Camp out in the backyard;
S. Have a picnic in your back yard, or in the park;
T. Lean something new together – new language, new game, etc;
U. Visit the downtown shops in the area where you live;
V. Put a scrapbook or photo album together;
W. Visit extended family and friends together; or
X. Visit a local farm.
Y. Make up your own:____________________________________________
Z. Ask family and friends for ideas:__________________________________

Add the ideas to all of the special things you already do with your children and you will have enough activities to keep you together for a long time. Instead of simply GOING through the family reorganization process, you can be GROWING through the process by enjoying activities with your children.

Even during this time, your children need and want consistent control and direction. Every home has “house rules” sometimes spoken and discussed, sometimes just understood by the family. This is a time to write down your home rules for your new home. Home rules can be as simple as “Supper Time is 6:00 PM,” “Bath Time is 8:00 PM,” “Bedtime Story is 8:30 PM,” “Lights Out at 9:00 PM,” to more complex issues such as “Curfew on Weekdays is 9:00 PM, Weekends 11:00 PM,” or outline a task that must be completed before using the car. Whatever your home rules are, your children will feel more secure when you set limits on them.

Your children need leadership and sometimes authority; you must be ready and able to set limits, give consequences, and to say “no” when necessary. If you leave your children at the mercy of every passing whim and impulse, it will interfere with their healthy development into adulthood. Therefore, do not be over-permissiveness or indecisive with your children. They need and want to know quite clearly what is expected of them.

Initially your children need the love, attention, affection and nurturing of both parents. As such you and the other parent will need to develop a new structure for dealing with each other as parents. One part of this new structure will be the timesharing schedule. The basic structure for sharing time with your children needs to be based on the assumption it is in your children’s best interests for them to experience the love, attention, affection and nurturing of both parents.

Although it is generally accepted that the best timesharing schedule for your children is the schedule upon which you and the other parent can agree, you and the other parent also need to know that regular, systematic, frequent and continuing custodial time with both parents has been clinically associated with better parent-child relationships. This simply states the obvious – the more time you have with your children, the better your relationship will be with your children.

Better parent-child relationships have been shown to facilitate better child adjustment to the parental separation and family reorganization. And, better parent-child relationships have been shown to produce higher rates of compliance with child support orders. However, if the other parent will not join you in cooperatively co-parenting your children, then you may need or be forced to go to family court to protect your children’s rights. You will need to come to the understanding that you are powerless to control the other parent, but you do have total power over yourself, your actions and reactions. You will need to stay firm in your beliefs, your values, mores and maintain your integrity when dealing with the other parent.