Shared Parenting

It's difficult ... but not impossible!
It’s difficult … but not impossible!

I spoke to a neighbour recently who has recently separated and is having some issues with the younger son coping with the change of households. It dawned on me, as I spoke and thought about the situation – I have been there, done that, and got the T-shirt to prove it! I can offer many insights into what might work for these situations in life. I have dealt with many of these single parenting issues myself, after parenting alone for nearly 14 years. And, if I haven’t had them, I know many who have, or seen many of the issues in my classrooms.

So, do you have a child that finds it a real challenge to go to ‘Dad’s House’ or ‘Mum’s House’ in this new experience they are having, sharing your marriage break up? I don’t say that in a derogatory way – but our kids often have no understanding of what is happening – sometimes we don’t either!

I didn’t pass Adult Psychology 101 before I got married. I didn’t even get a manual with my first child to tell me how to ‘operate’ her! But, we blunder on and do the best we can. It’s called ‘living’ and it doesn’t always come tied up with ribbons and a bow! Marriage can be a real challenge to our emotional selves, but that’s too big a topic for now. I’ll just stick to offering ideas to make home transitions easier on our kids.

  • Firstly, keep an amicable relationship with the ‘better’ half, if at all possible. Don’t continue arguing in front of the children. Chances are, that happened a lot before the separation, so if this is supposed to solve things, then the kids don’t want to see that nothing has changed. To them, if you are still arguing – you might as well have stayed married, which is usually what they secretly hope will happen again someday soon. Call a truce, if you must, or drop them off at the door without getting out of the car. Then, if you are like I was, you can drive away with a smile on your face, and cry down the road, around the corner, out of sight!
  • Some times a quick stop at the park between the two houses makes a change from one house to another less obvious. They come home from playing at the park – just to a different home! Take a ball with you and give them some catching practice. Maybe they are into skateboarding! Push them on a swing, or just have a game of tag!
  • If they don’t mind shopping, have a short list of things to get from the supermarket, and make it their responsibility to find them.
  • Make sure there is a snack that they can have when you get home. Kids are always hungry, and its surprising what a plate of crackers and cheese can do! Dinner might just have to be a little later that night!
  • Allow them to sit in the car for a while if they are not ready to get out once you get home. They might just need time to adjust. You can always go out and lock the car later!
  • Get them to help put their shopping away. It doesn’t seem as burdensome as asking them to unpack their bags and tidy their rooms!
  • Try to have an ‘electronic-free’ time for at least an hour, and make time to sit and talk about what they have been doing. Make sure you have something to share with them first. Amazing how kids will always want to butt in on adults, but never have anything to say when you ask them a question!
  • Allow your child to ring the other parent during their stay. If there are problems with misuse of this privilege, set out some basic rules: how long they can spend on the phone, how early or late they can ring, no telling tales, on siblings or parent!
  • Try to have some consistency between the households. You might love to do everything just how you want, now you are independent. But think for a moment how the kids have to learn two sets of rules, different ways to do everything. It can be a real challenge, and something we may not like either if it was imposed on us every other week.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff! Easy to say … not always so easy to do. But, if we save our demands for the things that really matter, then go with the flow on the smaller things, life will just seem so much less challenging for everyone.

I don’t expect you can do all these things – it depends on how old your children are. But, if anything helps, let me know. And if there are still some other problems you want to address, just use my contact page, or ask in the comments below.

Just thinking again of ways to help you … online.