Do treat your Children like Gold!
Remember you just turned your children's life (and they didn't have a vote) upside down. They now have to decipher new rules, new logistics, probable logistical chaos until their stuff finally gets where it is suppose to be, emotional land mines, and they have just inherited all the things you divorced your "ex" about. Maybe you were able to shield your children from some of the "bad stuff" going on and now they have to figure things out on their own.
Don't Throw Your Children under the bus!
Your children are not messengers! Do not interrogate them about the other house. Do not "dump" your anger for your "ex" onto your child. Yes, your child may begin to look, sound and act like your "ex"; please remember at one time that is exactly what you wanted. Do not rage at your child because this is now happening. Your new mantra is "I will be emotionally clean/calm for every interaction with my children.
Do Focus on Creating a Nurturing, Healthy, Happy Home.
It costs nothing to be a happy and nurturing, parent. Wake up every morning grateful, optimistic, and loving. Do not spoil your children because you haven't worked out your guilt about the divorce. Watch Super Nanny, read good parenting books, join good parenting groups and remember your children need love, discipline, education, cheerleading, compassion and empathy for starters. How you parent in your home is something you can control. While you work through your failure feelings about the divorce, you can be building your self- esteem by being a good parent.
Don't Try To Control The Other Home!
Listen to what your children feel comfortable sharing about their other home. Ask them how things are going for them with the logistics of having to go back and forth to two homes. Ask them if there is anything you can do to help with the challenge of two homes. If there are breakdowns happening in the other home that they are comfortable sharing, give them tools to handle the challenges. Do not speak poorly of their other parent your "ex". Always remember your "ex" is their Mom or Dad so heads up with the diarrhea of the mouth. Honor their relationship by keeping your emotions to yourself.
Do Give Your Children Some Control!
Children struggle with their lack of control during a divorce. They don't really have a say in anything that is happening to them. Find some areas where they can legitimately have a say e.g. color of their room, what goes in the room and where it is placed, foods they want in the refrigerator when they are at your house, books and/or stuffed animals, which of three options for vacation this year, for examples. Do not introduce them to your dating life until they have had time to grieve the loss of their family and only serious candidates please. Do not confuse spoiling with giving them some choices to get some control back of their life.
Don't Micromanage things that are Not your Business!
Give your children privacy when they have the call with your "ex" their other parent from your home. Don't micromanage that relationship. Your child has to now do what you couldn't do, figure out how to have a relationship with your "ex". Don't interrogate, grill, and snoop, whatever you want to call it about your "ex". If you want to know what is happening pick up the phone and call your "ex". You are now on a "need to know" basis. Remember when you get divorced you loose certain privileges of being married.
Do be the Parent!
During a crisis such as divorce, people have the opportunity of functioning higher or lower. Set as your goal to be the best parent. Do not use your child as your confidant. Get support from other adults, spend time with friends who can be there emotionally, educating you about how to recover not wallow during a divorce.
Don't Blur Boundaries!
Don't have your children sleep in your bed because you are lonely! Teach your children there are many ways to get emotional support: time with parents, time with friends, time with pets, time alone in your own room, time with books and musical instruments, sports, etc. If you bring your children into your bedroom when your "ex" moves out it is selfish and for you. You will eventually start dating; another adult will eventually be in the bedroom and then what? Your children will be "kicked out" for no reason. You just violated one of the don'ts called "Don't throw your children under the bus!"
Do Find the Silver Lining!
One of the greatest gifts you can teach children is to find the silver lining. If you take the high road during your divorce, accept responsibility for your part, learn your lessons, get your gifts, honor your children, reinvent yourself, manage your moods, and move forward, you will teach your children how to negotiate adversity and arrive on the other side a more complete person. This gift is priceless, will jump start your self-esteem, cannot be bought, and is a cornerstone of your child's education.
Dr. Anne Brown PhD, RN of Sausalito, California, is a psychotherapist, speaker, coach, and the author of Backbone Power: The Science of Saying No. Anne's approach is especially applicable to people affected by divorce. Backbone Power is a no nonsense self help guide to making decisions while having backbone and integrity in all your choices, short term and long term. In addition to helping the divorce community, Anne has over twenty years experience as the trusted advocate and advisor to influential corporate leaders, trial attorneys, athletes, leaders, physicians and others seeking actionable guidance. Brown is a graduate of the University of Virginia, BS in Nursing; Boston University, MS in Psychiatric-Mental Health in Nursing; and International University, PhD in Addiction Studies. In 1997 Brown also reached a personal goal of obtaining her Black Belt in Soo Bahk Do. You can contact Dr. Anne Brown through her website: www.BackbonePower.com .