If you are newly divorced and sharing the care of your children for the first time, you will be introduced to a whole new selection of worries and anxieties. While your children are young and you are in the throes of parenting, the thought of a couple of days away from them can seem like heaven after a sleepless night. But when the reality of this happens, it can feel like hell.
Lack of control
The first thing to understand is that when the kids are with your ex you have no control and it is this aspect that is the most difficult to deal with emotionally. As a parent you will be used to having full responsibility and therefore control over how your children are cared for.
The parent standing sobbing at the school gates on the first day of school while the child skips in is a common image, but at least at school you know that there are numerous safeguards, laws and processes that will protect your child. When your child is with your ex, you are only relying on their parental love, which after a divorce, you could doubt.
You may have split after having children due to different standards and expectations in parenting. You may suspect that your ex will do things with the children that you don’t approve of as an act of revenge, or you may worry about the other people that your ex will expose your child to.
If you have serious concerns about the welfare of your child, either physical or emotional abuse, neglect or other issues that could damage their health, it is vital that you contact your family solicitor as soon as possible. If it is not that serious then you need to learn how to cope with the lack of control and to communicate clearly in a way that won’t antagonise your ex.
Learn the difference between dangerous and annoying
If your ex is putting your children in danger, then this needs to be dealt with. Go to your family solicitor and they can advise you on the best course of action. If the danger is immediate, then phone 999.
Annoying behaviour won’t put your children in danger, but it may raise your blood pressure. It can be letting them spend too long in front of computer games, too much unhealthy food, or no bed time routines.
Then there are the grey areas, such as introducing your children to a string of new partners that leaves them anxious, or not wearing a bike helmet.
Pick your fights
If your ex is being deliberately antagonistic, then you need to pick your fights about your children very carefully. Only question behaviour that you feel is harming your children and leave anything that they might be doing just to wind you up. You can go back to your family solicitor at any time to try and change the conditions and expectations of child welfare.
You might also want to book a session with a trained family mediator where you can openly discuss your concerns and give your ex a chance to say why they are behaving a certain way.
Put your children first
You have to have faith in your children and your own parenting. It is tough being the strict parent when the other parent is the “party parent” and your children may use this against you. However, if you stand your ground and set appropriate boundaries, your children will remember this well into adulthood and appreciate their upbringing.
Don’t use your children as a bargaining chip or put pressure on them to tell you things they don’t want to about the other parent or put unrealistic expectations on them. Continue to give your children a loving and safe upbringing and they will thrive.