Issues With Your Children When Family Court Is Over

A certain amount of residual conflict is inevitable after the family court process is over. Your responsibility as a parent is to try to keep your children out of any parental conflicts. Always remember it was you as parents who broke up. Your children did not break up with either one of you.

Now more than ever your children need a well-grounded, positive, and firm relationship with each parent independently. After separation, many parents try to become their children’s “friend.” Trying to be a friend to your children is one of the worst things you can do for your children’s healthy development. They need, expect, and want a parent–they are quite capable of choosing their friends on their own.

You are your childrens’ parent, their mentor, their guidance counselor, and their unconditional supporter–you are NOT their friend. Any adult can parent a child. Parenting is not gender specific. Parenting is ensuring the safety of your children, educating them so they can become complete human beings, disseminating knowledge which comes from years of experiences, and teaching them the lessons they need to learn to become mature adults. These are not the traits of a friend, they are the traits of a parent. Don’t worry, you will have plenty of time to be a friend to your children after they are gown.

During family court proceedings, your life will probably be constantly in a crisis mode. Afterward, your life will be much quieter. It is during this quieter time that you need to put forth your best efforts at parenting your children.

Children who seem to do the best after the break up of the family structure are those whose parents spend time with them, make them feel loved and wanted, and allowing the children to maintain independent positive relations with both parents.

When kids don’t have to worry about how their parents are getting along, they are free to love both, without fearing the loss of either. Therefore, be careful when choosing your battles with the other parent–take your time to decide which battles are really worth fighting for.

I strongly suggest you to consider taking a coparenting class together with the other parent. However, whether you take a coparenting class or not, you must stay out of your children’s relationship with the other parent–unless there are clear signs of physical, sexual, or intense verbal abuse or neglect.

Keep changes to a minimum for your children, and constantly reassure them you love them, and will always take care of them, no matter what happens between you and the other parent. You will also want to constantly reassure your children they were in not way responsible for your breakup.

It may help to talk with your children about the advantages of two (2) homes and how this new schedule can work. Let them know it will take time to make the adjustment, and that you and they will get used to this new way of life together. Support your children when they show or talk about their feelings. Let them know it is OK to bring up painful subjects. Tell them they do not have to cover up their feelings to protect you, that as an adult and as a parent you can handle painful subjects. Encourage your children to feel.

And remember: Feelings are neither true or false, right or wrong. Feelings are real to the person feeling them, and your children should feel free to feel their feelings!

Maintain a regular routine with your children including house chores, house rules, safety rules, and normal family boundaries. In fact, if your children are old enough, allow them to help decide who does what chores and when, let them be involved in outlining the new house rules, and have them talk about new family rituals–rituals such as how to celebrate birthdays and holidays with the new family organization.

The following are some additional issues that might come up with your children, including some ideas of how you may want to handle them:

‒ Spending time with your children: If you fail to spend time with your children when they are with you, they will feel neglected and abandoned–no matter what you say.

‒ Showing respect for the other parent: Even though you may not feel respect for the other parent, showing your children that you respect the other parent is one of the best ways to help your children feel secure. Additionally, when children see their parents respecting each other they will tend to feel respected themselves, and give respect back as well.

‒ Even if you are upset and think it could make your children obey you, never threaten to send your children back to the other parent’s home.

‒ Never discuss reconciliation with the other parent, even if it is a strong possibility. If it does not work out, your children will go needlessly through the trauma and shock all over again. This is a time when the children need to be adjusting to their new circumstances, not hoping for what might never come to pass.

‒ Communicate daily to your children your love and support of them. Follow up with comfortable ways of showing your affection, such as an extra hug, a wink, or a smile. Children can seldom get enough reassurance. Now more than ever, they need love and nurturing from both parents.

‒ Even though you are going through a tough time yourself, try to show your children you are their parent, and an adult, and that you will make it. Parents often lean too heavily on their children for their emotional support during this period, which only adds to the children’s trauma.

‒ Your children need guidance and discipline. When you say NO, make it clear that no means no–it does not mean maybe!

‒ Remind your children of the consequences of their actions, and do not forget to including positive consequences for positive actions as well. ‒ Do not be afraid of your children’s negative feelings. Again, feelings are just feelings and your children should be allowed to have those feelings. It is what they do with those feelings that matters – do they act out appropriately, or do their actions demonstrate a need for further consequences? Remember, empathizing with their feelings does not mean you are agreeing with those feelings. Empathizing with their feelings simply means you are not going to judge or criticize them for having those feelings.

‒ Be a teacher to your children. Teach them what is right and wrong. Encourage them to do their best, and to make good choices. Then shower them with love and affection when they make good decisions.

‒ Show an interest in your children’s passions, whether it be ballet or baseball–get involved and stay involved in their lives. Nothing will provide security for your children more than your active participation in their passions.

‒ Remember it is not your job to make your children happy. You can not, nor should you try, to protect your children from all unhappy situations.

If you attempt to protect your children from unhappy situations, you are robbing them of the growth that comes from experiencing unhappy situations. You will be either teaching them they can not cope with unhappy situations, or teaching them you can not deal with seeing them unhappy. Either way this is an unhealthy way for your children to learn how to deal with unpleasant situations.

What you will want to learn to do is to simply reflect back to them that you heard and understand their unhappy feelings. Knowing that you are listening without condemnation or judgment, will usually allow your children to open up more fully with you about what is really troubling them. And like with many unpleasant situations, talking it through with an empathetic listener may be all that is needed to dispel the unhappiness.

‒ Provide a role model for your children of an attitude of gratitude. Showing thankfulness creates a wonderful feeling inside. Simple words such as, “I am grateful you decided to allow me to help you with this homework problem” indicates to your children that your love and affection for them is real, and it produces a tangible result.

Another issue that will eventually come up after the court process is over is the development of a new relationship. However, you need to remember it is best for your children if you introduce the new relationship into your children’s lives very slowly.

Allow your children to come around and warm up to this new person slowly, and in their own way. Your children may see this new person as a threat against their time with you. Therefore, your children may require more undivided attention from you once you have stated a new relationship.

The new person in your life can not, and must not be responsible for disciplining your children – that is solely your responsibility. If you have your new partner be the “heavy” in your children’s lives, they may very soon totally reject your new relationship – which will set off a whole new set of problems which you do not need. Be open to sharing new experiences with your children, brought to the relationship by your new partner. Avoid comparing things as the used to be, verses how they are now with your new partner. However, you may want to involve your children in discussions about new activities or experiences simply to let them know you care about how they feel about these new activities or experiences.