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How to setup clear guidelines for your kids when you are divorced

Jun 17, 2008
It can be hard at the best of times in a good marriage to stipulate the order of the day, as it were, where kids are concerned. Regrettably, this gets to be even more of a challenge after a divorce. It can be nigh on impossible for divorced parents to agree on common rules when they no longer live together, unfortunately the children are the ones that suffer most. Parents that separate or get divorced, certainly don't do the children any favors when they have "his" and "her" rules. Today's kids are smart, and there's no doubt that they will use both sets of rules to the best of their advantage. Two sets of rules are confusing and are definitely unfair to the kids, but they will take the best from each list - the rules they can use, or benefit from and disregard the rest.

In reality, you and your ex spouse aren't going to agree on all the rules for the children in both households. That is a war that very few people will ever win. Yet you can do your part by attempting to come to a compromise on those that are very important for you as well as for the well being of your children. It is a good idea to write down the rules so that everyone knows what it to be expected.

Should one of the parents have a new partner, and that relationship is new, or maybe the cause of the break-up, don't have the new partner at the meeting with your former spouse. That can be considered as very inappropriate and can be construed as punching below the belt. Regarding the guidelines for the kids, it is important that you stick to some rules that are to be valid at both households. These rules allow your child to adjust quicker to his new life-style of commuting between both sets of parents. Agreed bedtimes and what time to be indoors at night will quickly help to create stability in your child's life. He or she deserves this!

In defense of both parents, it has to be said that is generally impossible to make a set of rules that can be carved in stone and strictly adhered to at the best of times, never mind when the rules have to be enforced, or lived by in various locations. So what's the answer? Be flexible. Contrary to the saying, "What's good for the goose, is good for the gander" this kind of situation, is an exception to most rules. The best way is to have agreed rules for both households, and some rules that are only valid at "dad's place" and the same again for when the kids are living with mom. By having the address related rules, this stops the children finding loopholes in any common agreed rules and using it to their own advantage, which will inevitably seem like they favor one parent more than the other. This would probably escalate into a power struggle between both parents - exactly what we want to avoid, while we have the child's best interest at heart.

The rules that are established for both households aren't going to be set in stone. There may come a time when some of them need to be re-evaluated. If you are able to communicate well with your ex spouse schedule a time for the two of you to discuss it. Once you have come to some conclusions you can discuss the results with the children. It is best if you can do this together though. They will be more receptive to a united front then if only one parent is approaching them about the rule changes.

Naturally some rules, especially the address related rules, will benefit your child more than others. This is definitely not a bad thing and it's just the way things turn out sometimes. The important thing is that your child thrives and is happy in his or her new environment. Stay alert without being excessively maternal and notice any change in your child's behaviour, his mood, his friends, his school or college grades, anything at all that may give you cause for concern as to how he is affected by the changes in his life.

Your marriage may have failed, but that doesn't mean you have failed as a parent. You as a person and a parent cannot fail unless you quit..! So don't do what most divorcees do and start beating yourself up with guilt about the kids being caught up in the divorce. If you do, you will shed a tear and give your kid an extra inch here and permission to do this and that and before you know it, your child knows no boundaries and he doesn't know what is expected of him any longer and this is where the going gets tougher. If you fall into this self pity trap, you will regret it for a long time to come. Give your child rules and state your expectations and make boundaries for your kids. Sure, he'll rebel at first but once it sinks it that you have made a decision and that you are sticking to it, all will be well on the home front. I know, I have been through this and have witnessed both ends of the scale.

Don't ever twist the rules that the both of you agreed were to be valid for both households. Doing so will be at your own peril..! And it's guaranteed to cause more trouble than it's worth. Your former partner will find out about it and they'll most probably retaliate in no uncertain terms and any goodwill you guys had will be out the window. Something will be said, then one word will lead to another ..... does that ring any bells? If not, it should! Initially, you may have innocently thought that you would gain more affection from your children if you allowed them to stay out later than what you had agreed. But think again - kids will respect you a heck of a lot more had you held fast in the original plan.

Arranging and agreeing upon guidelines is of the essence for all concerned, especially when a family ceases to be one unit. Nevertheless, divorce does happen and it happens a lot. Children are often roped into their old and their new families, both with their own rules, or lack of them. Having rules for your child will always ensure that they have a safe haven to turn to where they can feel safe and respected. If you don't want to make rules for yourself, then make them for your child. To not do so is cowardice and a betrayal to your loved ones.
About the Author
The end of a marriage can be an expensive matter and not only in financial terms. Author Vivienne Myatt offers advice to divorced moms and dads in what she hopes will be considered as helpful advice. The percentage of single divorcees is rising and sometimes help can seem a long way away, so if one person can be helped then that is a good thing.
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