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Parenting and Divorce Insights: Keys to Stability

Recently we had a ferocious thunderstorm. Rain fell in sheets, lightning lit up the sky, and the sound of thunder drove our dog under the bed. Trees bent in the wind, and just about everything not tied down took flight?

Outside in our driveway, leaves were fluttering in circles, driven by the wind. In stark contrast, a large rock in our backyard did not budge!

Do children need leaves blown in the wind or the security of rock-solid love? 

Divorce can uproot even the most secure parents, leaving them unable to provide the type of limits, accountability, and consistency essential for raising respectful, responsible, and happy kids. Often, parents going through divorce are so overwhelmed by grief, loss, and other stresses that they find it incredibly difficult to be the solid leaders their children need. When combined with dramatically different parenting between homes, this is a recipe for failure.

So, what can you do to give your kids the stability they need?

Keep your focus rock-solid and simple: Limits, Accountability, and Love.

Far too often divorced parents waste tremendous amounts of energy—and create unnecessary tension—by trying to control the “ex.”  Regardless of what’s going on at your ex’s home, you can provide healthy limits in yours. Fortunately, kids who go back and forth between their divorced parents’ houses can grow into healthy adults if parents can avoid getting sucked into the trap of trying to control what they can’t.

When their child says something like, “Mom gives me candy before dinner,” wise parents don’t call their ex and accuse. They don’t complain about their ex in front of the child. They don’t get angry. They just smile and answer, “Well, aren’t you lucky to have two parents who are different. Feel free to have some candy after dinner."

Wise parents set limits only over what they do or allow, not what their ex does or allows. If your kids may play endless hours of video games when they are with your ex, one strategy is to say, “In my house, we do things like such as ride bikes, play ball, or play board games instead of playing video games.” 

When limits and accountability are provided within the context of love, kids know that the parent setting them with limits is strong enough to keep them safe and secure. Although they may waver and wander, the odds are extremely high that they will come back to you—their rock.

Dr. Charles Fay

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