Being A Good Parent

Podcast 003 Being A Good Parent

If you agreed to get married and you agreed to have children, you should agree to be a good parent post divorce. Just because you aren’t with your spouse anymore doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be with your children. In this episode of Divorce Exposed, we’ll talk about ideas for keeping the good parenting mantra at the top of the conversation and about being a good parent post divorce.

Before we get started, I’m starting a FB group to keep the conversation going. Click here to join the conversation.

I’d love for you to join us – just look for divorce exposed.  You’ll find a lot of great ideas on staying married and surviving divorce.  It’s not a place to vent but to share ideas that are insightful and inspirational.  If you are listening to this podcast in 2017, we are just launching the group so it is public and open to everyone.  The goal is to keep it interactive and keep sharing ideas of inspiration.  We’ll have professionals from the legal, therapeutic and financial arena’s chatting in from time to time so ask your questions and let’s get the conversation going.

I also want to emphasize that I am not a lawyer, financial advisor or therapist.  These are professionals you might need to help you through your divorce and I encourage you to reach out and ask for referrals if you feel you need help.  I’m just here to share ideas for you to consider.  Not all will work for you but if something inspires you, then I’ve done my job.

Today we are talking about being an involved parent after the divorce.

Many of us walked a different path when we made the decision to have a child, but once in the role, we as parents have a responsibility and just because we are no longer married doesn’t mean we can neglect our parental responsibilities.

Unfortunately, divorce often puts children in the middle, which in the long run is really unfair to the child who doesn’t know better.  I have so many stories I could share (and will as we get into future episodes) about how divorce has impacted children.  The stupid things people do just because they are divorced.  You really have to wonder if they would do these things if they were still married.

Today I’ll focus on getting on the same page.  Now, this is difficult if you were never on the same page to begin with, but somehow, some way, you have to find a way to do so for the sake of your kids.  And in many cases, it means you, yes you, need to let go of your resentment.

And if you are listening to this and have just had children or are contemplating having children, then I really want to encourage you to have some long and lengthy conversations about what parenting looks like to you.

Often times couples have conversations that they want to have a baby, or they want to have a family, maybe they talk about how many kids they want and what sexes they would prefer, but it doesn’t go much deeper than that.

Have conversations about what you want for your children, how will you teach them about money, values, community service, friends, commitments, etc.  Will you be controlling and watch their every move or will you give them the opportunity to fail and learn from their experiences?  Will you do everything for them or will you teach them how to do things for themselves.

I chuckle when I say this because I didn’t teach my oldest son how to do laundry until he was in 12th grade.  It was always easier for me to do it for him.  But when one of my neighbors was telling me about her son who was in his 2nd year of college and was just learning how to do laundry, I had a quick wake up call for what I needed to start doing.  It was also a wake up call for how I was parenting and how I needed to make some changes.  Unfortunately, at this point, my husband, aka my kids step father, wasn’t on my new page and it created some difficult conversations.  We both believed in family, but somehow some of the conversation wasn’t focusing on helping them become more independent and launching them as adults, we were focused on the minutia.

I also believe that having the conversation about parenting has to be ongoing.  It can’t be a one and done exchange of words.  Because as we age, we ourselves continue to learn and grow. Our new knowledge can also change who we are – hopefully for the better.  This growth can help with parenting so long as the communication continues.

But if you are divorced or in the process of getting divorced, keeping your kids life  in tact as much as possible is what is essential.  From a financial aspect, a lot might change and that’s not what we are discussing here, but your involvement with them is what I’m talking about and what I think is so essential.

As parents, you should continue to be involved, show up just like you did when you were married.

If your kids participated in sporting events when you were married, then keep them in post divorce.

Before I divorced, my boys played soccer.  I coached my youngests team and my husband took my oldest to his practices and games when I couldn’t go.  Otherwise, we always tried to go as a family …..until the divorce.  Once we separated, I would sign my boys up for sports just like before and my husbands reaction on his weekend visits was not to take them to their games because it was his weekend and he could do what he wanted on his weekends and who was I to say differently.

So on his visitation weekends, I would pick up the kids from their dads and take them to their games, then take them back to their dads house.  I did this because it’s what the kids were doing pre divorce and I believed their life shouldn’t have been disrupted.  It was difficult for me to comprehend why their dad wouldn’t continue to do the dad things other than it was revenge on me. That really wasn’t a conversation I wanted to be having with my boys, so for the most part I didn’t say anything. But it hurt me to see what this was doing to them, because they didn’t understand why their dad wasn’t coming to their games.

About 3 years after we separated, I moved about an hour away from where we were living.  So attending practices might have been a little tougher, but I believe their dad should still have come to the games. He was picking them up for his visitation weekends anyway. It got so bad that for awhile, he wouldn’t even pick up the boys if they had a sporting event because in his mind what was the point of driving an hour to get them and only have them for 24 hours? I actually had to go to court to get him to pick them up on weekends when they had a sporting event. In my case, it ended up being tied to a child support increase which is why I had some leverage, but seriously, it should have never gotten this way.

This really impacted my youngest and at one point during a crisis counseling session many years later, he had to negotiate with his dad to come to the last 15 minutes of whatever the sporting event was, on the weekends he was scheduled to go see his dad. Yes, you heard that correctly. At this point, my son was swimming and he had to negotiate to get his dad to the last 15 minutes of his swim meet. Most of the time, his dad didn’t see him swim because he would swim in an earlier event. But my son was happy that his dad made it to the end.

I know my boys dad isn’t the only parent that was once very active in their kids activities and after the divorce goes MIA. There is no question that this type of behavior has more impact on the kids than we will ever know. It took a tragedy in my sons life to get him into some great counseling that forced his dad to participate in the counseling.  Without that, I don’t think he would have ever seen his dad at a sporting event after our divorce.

While many jobs aren’t flexible for school activities, try to find a way to get to the school plays, the parent teacher meetings and whatever else your children are doing. Yes, you will both need to be on the ball field, or in the building at the same time, but when you do this, you are making a good impression for your child. You are teaching your children how to parent and creating a better family in general. You are teaching your children to be good citizens and better parents when the time comes because you are leading by example.

My boys dads behavior has really impacted my youngest son who is now twenty something.  It’s sad to see but he has very little respect for his dad.

My biological dad wanted nothing to do with me. My mom left him when I was barely 1 year old because my dad was physically abusive to her. Growing up, I probably saw him every few months. I’m not sure if that was due to his schedule (he was a police officer) or if his new family kept me out of the picture. But I remember as a teenager, my mom would force my dad to take me every 6 months so he could buy me clothes. I remember going to Montgomery Wards and trying on clothes while my father would stand outside of the dressing room complaining the whole time about how horrible my mother was forcing him to buy me clothes. Yet that was one of the rare few times I would actually see him! My dad new nothing about me, who I was, or what I was doing. I did get to know my dad when I had kids, and I’ll talk about that more, but part of why I am sad about how my ex behaved towards my kids is because I know how it feels. I know the emotions, the hurt , the pain that occurs when a parent isn’t involved.  We almost feel rejected.

As a mom, I have really tried to emphasize how important it is to be a family. I remember as a teenager wanting a family like Ozzie and Harriett, with mom and dad there. It’s probably what attracted me to my second husband because he had the same mindset. It was all about family. Well, for a while anyway but the conversation about my second husband is probably enough to cover a years’ worth of episodes! And this episode really isn’t about my life, although I’m sure many my stories will come out in future episodes. What I really want to emphasize is how important it is to be involved with your kids post-divorce and to be on the same page as much as possible.

If you are in the process of getting a divorce, try to negotiate being a good parent into the documents. At the moment, I don’t believe it’s a legal issue that the courts will rule on.  But if you are in mediation, make it a topic of discussion. Have consequences if one parent doesn’t meet their end of the bargain. Have it written in the agreement that are enforceable without having to go to court. If you have no alternative but to go to court, make the offending parent required to pay the legal fees.

Have conversations about keeping similar schedules, about presenting a united front, transitioning between houses, extended family relationships, and what you both want for the kids down the road.

What happens if your ex (or you) has more children? How will that impact your current kids and how will you manage that? What happens if you move out of the area? How will you handle parenting (technology helps today), but these are all areas to discuss so you minimize problems down the road and you set the expectations in advance.

I’ll be honest with you, having conversations about parenting after a divorce never came up when I was going through either of my divorces. But I wish it had because of how my ex’s behavior impacted my kids. If I could go back and renegotiate my divorce, I would have done so many things differently. And this after divorce parenting would have been at the top of the list.

So often during the divorce negotiations, we argue about what weekends and holidays we get our kids but we don’t talk about the really important things like how we’ll behave in between with our kids. How we’ll stay involved or communicate with them. How dating, remarriage or funerals will be handled. It’s assumed that now that we are divorced, what we do on our own time isn’t of concern to the other but when kids are in the picture, what we do is important.

For example, I had my own rule that if I started dating, I had to date that person for at least 6 months before I would introduce him to my kids. My ex would go out on a first date and take the boys along with him.  It made me crazy because my feeling was that they only saw their dad for 4 nights or less a month. Couldn’t their dad focus on them for those 4 night and date the other 26 nights of the month? Again, this was more an issue of my values vs. his values which clearly were very different. But had we discussed this during the divorce process, perhaps we could have found a neutral place. One that we both could accept and was in the best interest of our children.

I can’t tell you how many sarcastic stories I’ve heard when the x gets remarried and has a baby. How the children from the first marriage become an afterthought. I understand the infatuation with the new spouse and potentially the new baby, but the divorce wasn’t the kids fault and it’s essential for them to remain the priority.

Trust me, these are really difficult conversations to have and they might require having a therapist in the room instead of a lawyer. I’m not talking about doing what is legal as a parent here, I’m talking about doing what is right for your kids. I’m talking about keeping the same relationship with your kids post divorce as you had when things were really good in your marriage.

Do everything you can to remain very active in the daily lives of your children, even if you aren’t living in the same household.

Today with Skype, facetime, whatsapp there’s no excuse not to see and talk to your kids every day, even if it’s through technology.  I have a friend that left his wife when the children were very small and his new job transferred him an hour away which was too much for him to commute.  But he bought them an ipad and every night at dinner he was eating with them, via skype.  They were so young they could barely communicate, but at least they had the opportunity to see their dad every day in the same way they saw him pre divorce – at the dinner table.

Doing something like this definitely takes extra effort, but it was done for the kids benefit.

As you can hear, I’m passionate about this topic.  I’ve been there, I’ve felt the pain and I’ve seen what it has done to my kids and even other children whose parents have divorced.  I do believe this topic should start before you get married because if you aren’t on the same page with parenting before you get married, it’s going to be really difficult once the kids arrive.

While you might be divorced now (or soon to be), it doesn’t give you the right to forget about your children. In my opinion, they need to remain your priority.  You as a parent need to do what is right for your kids.  Kids who are brought up in a single household don’t have the guidance and direction to parent when the time is right for them.  Lead by example and you will also help your children become better parents to your grandchildren.

Summary of the podcast

I hope I have provided you with a little insight about staying involved in your kids lives post-divorce and about how important having parenting conversations can be throughout your relationship.

The other thing that I would recommend is that if you are getting divorced, get your kids into counseling.  I’m talking about kids who are under 25 here.  Maybe they’ll need one session, maybe they’ll need several, but you are about to rock their world and they need some professional help right now.  It will help them move forward much faster than you will realize.

That brings us to the end of this episode.

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