By Shelley Grieser
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f you are a single parent you may have thought parenting was challenging enough when you were married and working as a team. Even married couples do not always agree on how to raise children, yet they are more likely to listen to each other’ view point, discuss and explore options, and reach a mutually acceptable approach.
Co-parenting after a divorce can present some unique challenges. I understand as a parent that we are all human and we all make mistakes. I also understand how frustrating it can be when a parent makes poor choices, bad decisions and presents a less than desirable role model for your children.
I find it sad when I see single parents thinking only of themselves and disregarding the effects their choices and decisions will have on their children. What kind of a role model is a parent being for their children when they;
- Bad mouth the other parent in front of them or behind their back, to the children
- Are unfaithful in their marriage, whether they cheat once or multiple times
- Jump from relationship to relationship
- Choose to live with another adult and their children while dating
- Sleep with a person they are dating when the children are in their custody
- Have a baby out of wedlock that is now a half sibling to their other children
- Lie or tell their children to lie to the other parent
- Set different rules (opposing the other parent), lack of rules, do not enforce rules
- Share or involve children in information or decisions of an adult nature
This is only a partial list of the many possibilities. What can happen when a parent makes bad decisions, the other parent can feel burdened to be the responsible parent and to set the good example for the children.
Although you cannot control the other parent, or prevent your children from experiencing the consequences of bad decisions made by the other parent, there are ways you can help. I have listed below some of the things you can do to help your children. Depending on the age of your children you will need to communicate at their level of understanding. As they get older you can expand your discussion and share more information, as appropriate.
- Do not bad mouth the other parent, even though he/she may bad mouth you.
- If you are angry or upset, wait until you have time to cool down, think logically and choose your words carefully before addressing a situation. If necessary discuss the issue with another adult/trusted friend, to get their advice or feedback on how to best handle the situation with your children. In some cases, you may want to talk to a professional who works/understands children, for advice.
- Instill Godly values in your children. Give them a foundation that will help them to make good choices in life.
- Take your children to church (Sunday school), youth group, divorce support group for children, where they can find positive role models, support for healing, comfort, understanding.
- If a child is experiencing particular problems as a result of a parents bad choices, you may want to seek professional counseling to work through it.
- Get involved in activities at church, school, volunteer opportunities, where your children can make a difference, find a mentor.
- Do what you can to surround your children with positive role models. This can include extended family members, friends, families (healthy intact families), coaches, instructors, teachers, that are positive and encouraging.
- Be sure to take advantage of teaching opportunities. When you hear about stories, struggles, trials, achievements, successes, going on with other families, friends, or people in your community, you can use these to reinforce values, examples of right and wrong, and to illustrate principles that you want to instill in your children.
- It is important to share your beliefs and values with your children. Let them know that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. You can explain why you believe what you believe. If you are a Christian you can say, I believe…. because that is what the Bible teaches. I choose to live according to these principles because then I can expect… as an outcome.
- Love your children and let them know how important they are to you, that you want the best for them.
It is said that children learn more from what they see modeled for them, than what we tell them. When a parent is being a poor role model, making bad choices, the best thing you can do is to show them a positive role model, making good choices. Pointing out the mistakes or bad choices of one parent is not going to prevent your child from making the same choices. Show them a better choice.
Chap Clark, a Youth Culture Expert, says that children should have at least 5 important adults (other than their parents) pouring into their lives. Do not be afraid to ask friends, family, coaches, instructors, leaders, neighbors, anyone who you believe would be a positive role model for your children, to come along side your children and be a mentor. If you do not know anyone, then look into getting involved with organizations where you might find them, network with people you know and see if they know of anyone.
Some possible places to find positive role models could be church, non-profit organizations, Big Brother and Big Sister programs, community volunteer opportunities, leaders of programs for children activities/groups/clubs. Be sure to spend time getting to know a person, listen to what your child has to say about the person. Ask yourself if the person reflects the character and personality traits you respect and value.