Parents rarely see eye-to-eye on all parenting decisions. Those differences in parenting styles can be exacerbated by divorce. So what do you do when you and your co-parent have different expectations and rules for your children when they are in each of your homes?
Kids Are More Flexible Than You Realize
Children and teens have to abide by specific rules when they're in school, at sports practice and at friends' homes. Therefore, having somewhat different rules in their parents' homes shouldn't be a big problem as long as you're each consistent in enforcing your own rules.
It's also important not to disparage your co-parent's style in front of your kids. Maybe your ex-spouse allows more screen time or a later bedtime. Perhaps he or she opts for take-out more than home-cooked meals. All good parents have their children's best interests at heart. They may just view what that means differently.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
It's more important that you and your co-parent agree on the big things like health care, education and basic discipline and that no one is endangering your child. If you and your co-parent have vastly different expectations, it's best to work together to reach an agreement that you can both live with and enforce. Then present a united front to your child. If you don't, kids can find a way to use these differences to their own advantage.
Parallel Parenting May Be the Answer -- for a While
Some parents find that parallel parenting works best, at least in the early stages after their break-up. Co-parents may opt for this solution if they can't communicate about their children (or sometimes anything else) without conflict. Parallel parenting involves disengaging from one another as parents and having as little contact as possible.
Finding yourself with sole responsibility for your kids, at least for a portion of the time, after divorce is challenging. You may have relied on your ex to make certain decisions or lay down the rules, and now you have to do it yourself. You may not have even realized what your own parenting style is until now.
If you are having serious difficulties working with your co-parent to find a balance in parenting styles, your family law attorney may be able to help you restructure your parenting plan or find another solution, such as a family therapist, that can help your children thrive after divorce.
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