By Julie Nealon – Associate Editor USA, Raise Vegan
Are you a guilty parent?
For ten years I’ve felt guilty for putting my children through a divorce. I felt guilty that their innocence would be lost, that their home would be forever changed, that they wouldn’t feel safe and secure anymore. I know that I can’t be the only one feeling this way. A lot of divorced parents feel the guilt hanging over them like a cloud. Sometimes parenting after a divorce affects how they even parent their children. Here are three ways that guilt can steer our parenting styles.
1. Parents can become overly strict and controlling.
The splitting of the family unit is messy, and can make everything feel chaotic, making you feel like you’ve lost control. Some parents can become overly controlling in an attempt to regain some stability and normalcy.
Some parents take it to the next level by trying to control the kids when they’re with the other parent. For example my daughter isn’t allowed to bring any of her clothes or toys from her Dad’s back to our home. It’s confusing for her and it’s one more thing for me to feel guilty about, hence why I sometimes tend to fall into the next category.
2. Parents can become too lax and lenient.
Just as some become more controlling, other parents go the opposite route. They don’t set guidelines and boundaries for their children, allowing them to behave however they want. They do not set consequences for bad behavior or if they do, they don’t follow through out of guilt.
This is a tough spot to be in because often times the parent is worried and racked with guilt, afraid if they do enforce consequences, then their kids won’t love them or want to be with them. Often times, their greatest fear is that the child will want to live with the other parent.
This issue can be a very real struggle for the non-custodial or every other weekend parent. These parents feel guilty because their precious time is already limited. They don’t want to spend it disciplining, setting boundaries or enforcing consequences. They just want everything to be happy.
As the custodial parent I also struggle with this one. I have to set the rules, homework, bedtimes, getting kids up for school. I end up feeling so guilty like I’m the “asshole parent” that I can be lax on other things.
3.Parents can become competitive instead of co-parenting.
This is when parents try to one-up each other to win over the children’s affection or make themselves look like parent of the year. This type of guilty parenting can be the worst because it can become spiteful and manipulative, and this kind of parenting after a divorce can have lifelong effects on your children.
Here’s a few examples:
Mum buys the kid some new sneakers from Target and the Dad see’s them and buys some Jordan’s. Dad decides to take the kids to the newly released Harry Potter movie next week and excitedly mentions it to them during his parenting time. The next time he picks them up, they say “guess where we went with Mum?!”
Another form of this is withholding important information about school functions, field trips, parent/teacher conferences or even important medical appointments so that the other parent doesn’t attend. This makes the absent parent appear to not be supportive or care to the outside world and especially to the child, and the attending parent look like parent of the year.
How can you parent without the guilt?
Some of these are glaringly obvious, but sometimes, you can’t see the forest for the trees.
First, if you’re using these behaviors, stop. Get help if needed, seek counselling to better deal with whatever is driving this behavior. Maybe even take a parenting class.
Second, children need to feel physically safe, nurtured and loved, regardless of if their family is intact or split up. Put all of your focus on that. Put your energy into being a better parent and not being better than the ex.
Finally, let go of what you cannot truly control and just make lots of memories. Make your house into a home. You don’t have to buy expensive toys, clothes, day trips or vacations. All a kid really needs in a safe loving environment where they can feel comfortable and secure. Just be present whenever your kids are present no matter how much or how little that may be.
The smallest acts can make the biggest memories.
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