When a Single Parent Makes Poor Choices: Part 2
Posted in Divorced Parents
In my last post I talked about what you can do when the other parent makes poor choices unintentionally. This may result because he/she does not really know better or has not thought through the situation. Since poor choices made by a parent impact the children, I suggested how you might address the situation with the other parent.
Today I want to address how you might help your children when the other parent makes poor choices or bad decisions without thinking (or caring) about the implications it will have on the children. I know how frustrating it can be when the other parent makes poor life choices that impact your children, maybe even for life. One of the more common issues for which you will have no control or input is when and how the other parent chooses to date, and who they bring around your children. Although I will talk about poor choices related to dating, the concepts can easily be translated to other poor choices made by a parent.
Some parents desperately want to be in another relationship, possibly your marriage ended because of the other parent being unfaithful to your marriage. In these situations, when one parent jumps into a relationship he/she is thinking of themselves and not the best interest of the children. All the while your ex is setting an example for your children. Your first response may be anger, hurt, pain, frustration, or fear. I encourage you to do your best to keep your cool. Here are suggestions for what not to do:
Tips of what NOT to do when the other parent makes poor choices regarding dating:
- Two wrongs do not make a right. Trying to get even, by going out and finding someone to date is not the answer. You will only be hurting yourself and your children.
- Restrain from venting with your children. Any frustration or emotions you may have regarding the situation you should vent with a friend, family member, or counselor, or journal your feelings. As hard as it might be, the other parent is still their parent. Your children gain some of their identity from both parents. If you speak negatively about the other parent, the child may then transfer those negative comments as a reflection of themselves.
- Do not put your children in the middle asking them 20 questions about the person your ex-spouse may be dating.
- Avoid negative comments about the person they choose to date. It can be difficult enough for children to accept their parent being with/dating another person. When you express your disapproval; your children may decide not to like the person out of loyalty to you, or that it gives them permission not to like the person since you disapprove.
- When you speak negatively about the person your ex-spouse is dating, you make the situation even more strenuous for your children. The children are then put in a position of pleasing one parent and disappointing the other. Like it or not, you never know when the person your ex is dating may become your children’s step parent. Children are much smarter and perceptive than we often give them credit. You need to allow them the freedom to form their own opinion.
Tips of what you CAN do when the other parent makes poor choices regarding dating:
- Depending on the age of your children, you can talk about choices and consequences. Think about what you want to say before you talk with your children. You can be very diplomatic without naming people in your conversation. If you have an example of friends or a story that you can use to illustrate your point, fine. Do not use your ex-spouse. Talk about how every one has the ability to make choices, with those choices there are consequences. You can discuss different choices and the possible consequences for each choice.
- You can share with your children choices you would make in a given situation and explain why. Look for learning opportunities. Take advantage of real life situations, or movies, news events where you can take a situation and turn it into a learning opportunity. This can be a good time to share your values and beliefs and how they help you to make choices. You may even share an example of when you or someone else made a poor choice and the consequences that resulted, how you might do it differently. Be sure to point out good choices as well.
- If you feel the other parent is making poor choices, then you can model for your children what you believe are good choices. You can also spend time with other families, adults, or extended family that will model positive behavior for your children.
- Be sure that you take time to heal, recover and become healthy. If you want your children to have a positive role model of a healthy relationship, do not rush into another relationship.
- When you do start dating, do not introduce your children to every person you date. It is best to wait until you are in a relationship (that is serious or with long term potential) before introducing him/her to your children.
- Do what you can to prepare your children prior to introducing them to anyone you are dating. Help your children understand what your dating means to them.
Children, depending on their age, may become worried about how this could change or impact their life.
- Reassure your children how much you love them and how important they are to you.
- Encourage your children to share their feelings with you, listen to what they have to say and help them work through it.
- Pray for the other parent, your children, and with your children, depending on their age and understanding.
- Be open to listening to your children’s concerns regarding the other parent.
- If there is a situation that concerns your children about the other parent, you may want (or need) to share it with your ex-spouse. If the topic or issue is particularly sensitive, be careful in how you approach the other parent. If you are on good terms and able to discuss it openly, great. If communication is stressful, then send an email, or leave a voice mail message. Try to keep it to the facts, without your emotional comments.
- Understand there are times when you may need to be an advocate for your children’s voice to be heard. Depending on the severity of the situation and your relationship with the other parent, you may need to get a children’s mediator or a counselor/therapist involved to resolve the issue.
- When you make a poor choice, admit it to your children. Do not be afraid to admit when you are wrong, to apologize, ask for forgiveness and let them know
how you should have handled a situation, or how you will handle it differently in the future.
Being a single parent can be overwhelming at times. The important thing is to do the best that you can with what you know. Let your children be children. Do not put them in the middle of the relationship between you and your ex-spouse, expressing negative comments, making them choose sides. Avoid placing too high of expectations on children, forcing them to grow up too fast, or assuming the role/responsibilities of the other parent in your home.
If you need help with parenting issues, don’t be afraid to seek help. Be sure to think about your children and the impact your choices will have on them. How you live your life and the choices you make will affect your children. We welcome you to share your comments, questions or experiences below.
Copyright 2011 Shelley Grieser All Rights Reserved