Knowing how to stop unwanted parenting advice is an important skill to learn when you step into divorce. The difference between those divorced parents with great relationships with their kids and those that continually struggle to find their way is understanding that this modern-day rite of passage applies to the entire family. This is your child’s first divorce. They didn’t ask for it. They usually don’t understand it either. If you don’t figure out how this rite of passage applies to you and your children, you’ll set up yourself up for unwanted parenting advice from your ex.
Allow your ex and your children their own opinions separate from your point of view.
You have a new dynamic to create with your kids that doesn’t involve their other parent. Yet way too often, the new relationship with your kids is up against wondering what the other parent will think about it and how they’ll view what you’re doing. When you do that, you avoid separating and instead, continue the connection.
Usually, this comes in the form of a defensive fight. When it happens, it wrecks havoc on your parenting confidence never mind the time with your kids. You opt-in and learn how to parent on your own to stop unwanted parenting advice. The sooner you learn how to do this, the easier it’ll be for you and your kids to create your own partnership away from the other parent and how it used to be.
It doesn’t matter how old your child is, divorce stinks for kids.
Being myopic and self-involved, younger kids simply want to do things their peers are doing. They don’t want to be going to the other parent’s home during the week or every other weekend. They don’t want to listen to your fighting because no matter how much you’d like their help, they can’t help you feel better. And as much fun as it is to meet your new friend, they don’t want to share their parents with other people. Because of being concerned about their kids, solo parents already enter this new stage with less confidence than they had when married. Bad habits develop out of fear and the stress of separation and divorce.
Older kids (and I do mean at any age) usually know more details of their parent’s relationship and what’s caused the divorce than you realize. But they typically don’t want to choose sides no matter what the details and justifications. Your adult child wants you to be happy, they also want to stay out of your fight and usually don’t know how to lend an impartial ear or open heart. Especially when they hear about the conflict between you and their other parent. Instead of opting into the fight, they’ll pull away unsure of how to respond and what to say. They can’t afford to lose either parent and they’re often quite stuck in the middle.
Let go of a few habits that warrant unwanted parenting advice from your ex and from other people.
1) Stop waiting for appreciation and approval from the other parent (aka. the ex-spouse.)
Own it – how often are you with your kids wondering what your ex will think? How often are you wondering what the other parent is going to ask when they call your kids? Or when they hear what you did that day? Is that competitive – protective part – of you running how you behave? If it is, it’s time to curb the need for their approval.
2) It’s time to grow a thicker skin. You know how to show love to your children.
Trusting that you have a right to be with your kids is complicated by the legal process and child custody rules. Sometimes, forensic therapists are brought in and every move is put under a microscope. A forensic therapist can shake the confidence of the most stable parent. The worst part is when, in the heat of frustration and anger, you’ve “gone against the rules.” Your anxiety rises if you sense you have.
In that moment, you know you’re in for an earful of unwanted parenting advice from your attorney, your ex or even a Judge. And you won’t be able to stop yourself from indulging the anger and fear.
It’s time to stop indulging the competition between you and your ex and parent your kids.
On top of the stress is the need to be right. To win and give unwanted parenting advice to your ex. Instead of parenting your kids, you’re using your parenting skills as another area to compete and fight with your ex. By fighting over your parenting chops, you’re continuing the fight. When you continue the fight, you lose out on precious time with your kids. The need to prove you’re the better parent corrupts your ability to be present and focused on the children in front of you. The brain will not be able to recall the time you spent with them because of the stress.
I lost lots of memories with my children because of this. I was more wrapped up in trying to prove I was a great mom (to some fictional, imaginative person in my mind) then enjoying hearing about my kids’ day. This was a hard lesson to learn, but upon learning it, my stress levels dropped and my confidence went up. There is nothing to prove! As a parent, you do not need the approval of your ex (or anyone else for that matter) including your attorney or other parents at your children’s school. By seeking it out and competing with your ex, you’re setting yourself up for unwanted parenting advice.
Creating a new life with your children will be very different from the life they had with you and their other parent.
This is really tough for newly separated parents to wrap their head around. There really is a big change – everything from the possibility of less money to fewer extracurricular activities. There most likely will be a new school, a new home, maybe even new siblings. The new routines will take some time to get used to. Everything is changing for all of you.
Don’t set yourself up for disappointments and unwanted parenting advice.
No, your life isn’t going to be as it was – whatever, “as it was” was, for you and your kids. How can it be? You’re not with that partner anymore. And usually, the change is hard because of the struggle to gain confidence that you can create a new dynamic with your children on your own. And believing that it’ll be good.
That first holiday I hosted on my own without my assistant (or my children’s father) to help prepare the 5-course meal brought me to tears on my kitchen floor. I hadn’t asked for this enormous shift in my life and preparing this meal was incredibly stressful for me. I was trying to keep up with the old traditions on my own.
When my kids came home and my company arrived, I had to put on my cheery face and entertain by myself. (Actually, the woman I called while sitting on the floor gave me some really tough love: she said, “Get up, pull up your big girl pants. you can do this. Now do it!) It wasn’t fun but she was right. The sympathy I thought I wanted wasn’t what I really needed.
When you let go of the old way of doing things, you set yourself up for something even better.
Letting go of the past way of doing things does not mean how you did it was wrong or that what you’re doing now “isn’t as good.” When I would listen to my children’s experiences with their father, I would have a painful, competitive feeling. Now it doesn’t affect me anymore. I’m excited they get to do some of our favorite things and I think they’re very fortunate kids.
The sooner you accept that your life has changed and stop fighting it, the easier it’ll be for you to move on and return to your kind-hearted self.
Being afraid to love your kids the way you want to haunts divorcing parents. They’re so afraid that what they’re doing with their kids will be thrown back in their face. Short of the big no-no’s: using drugs, physical abuse, and other unlawful behavior, what you do with your kids is up to you! So many parents worry that if they do this or if they do that, the other parent will use it against them. They will. And they will try to. But, as I like to say… so what!?!
Show up free from your competitive nature or overriding fear to avoid unwanted parenting advice.
Loving your children means just that. There’s this enormous opportunity going forward for you to have your own, unique, happiness and trust with your children on your own. You get to be there for them when they’re scared. Create new traditions and routines. Enjoy hearing about their lives. Explore what they’re learning, remembering, and doing.
That’s the measure to know you’re doing the right thing. Not waiting for your ex or your attorney or the neighbor down the street to tell you that you’re doing a great job. If you’re expecting that or even want it, be prepared for unwanted parenting advice. Approval from your ex is rarely going to come your way!
Laura Bonarrigo is a Certified Life Coach and a Certified Divorce Coach. Laura’s a writer, public speaker and the founder of The Better Divorce and doingDivorce™ School – online coaching programs for those ready to shed the pain of breakups. For empowering and practical ways to lose the identity of your past, visit www.doingDivorceSchool.com.