From the mouths of our own children… I want to introduce DadsDivorce readers to a blog post by OnTeensToday.com’s very own Vanessa Van Petten. In this post, Vanessa offers some suggestions from the perspective of a teen who went through a divorce…
My parents divorced when I was 4 and I switched houses every Monday until I was 17…so I am always trying to think of things I wish my parents had done to help out families going through this rough period. There are a few things that I wish my parents had known:
1. Define the New Family
I think I freaked out because I thought that I would never have a real family again. One of the first things I hope you can do with your children…is to explain that a family with one dad, lesbian moms, three half-sisters, single parents, step parents…they are all different types of families. Think about what family means to you and explain this to your kids, let them know that there are many different kinds of families and there is no better, best or ‘normal’—only happy and loving.
2. New Start…New Rules
Make the rules before they make you! Take the chance for a new start and have everyone decide what kind of new house rules you want to have. I always felt really empowered when my parents asked me my opinion on new household routines or rules. Be sure to also make a new emergency routine (emergency numbers, what to do in a new house in case of fire or earthquake…often overlooked, but very important). I was terrified for my other house during the LA earthquake and for a while phone lines were down so we couldn’t call each other…always know what to do.
3. New Start…Same Ethics
New rules are great, but sometimes we like to take advantage or our parents chaos to assume punching your brother, stealing candy and cursing like dad are suddenly ok. Be sure to let them know, that although there are a lot of changes, your family values and ethics are still the same.
4. Being Scared is OK
Be open, let them know you are scared too, and it might take a little while, but you can work together to make things feel ok.
5. Mum’s the Word
My parents are extremely good about not talking about the other. I mean literally avoid any comments at all in front of your kids, when you say bad things it can be upsetting and even when you say good things it can be confusing (i.e why don’t you just get back together?)
6. Find Other Single Parents
As I mentioned in a previous post, my mom just joined Jdate…she is much happier when she goes out. Find other single and divorced parents, I am sure they have far better tips than I!
7. Maintain Habit and Approach
Don’t keep switching tactics. I think a lot of divorced parents are so desperate to make their kids feel ok they try everything and anything…incentives, rewards, punishment, presents, denial, upset. Pick a strategy and stick to it. The more consistent we see you being, the easier it is for us to find our footing. Be patient with us, show us love, we will come around = ).
Showing your kids that you love them is the most important thing when going through divorce or separation. Also check out my article
4 Everyday Tips From A Child Of Divorce.
Vanessa Van Petten who is the teen author of the parenting book “You’re Grounded!” She writes a parenting blog along with 12 other teen writers from the kid’s perspective to help parents understand what is actually going on in the mind of kid’s today. Her awesome parenting tips as a family peacemaker have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Daily News, Fox 5 New York, CBS 4 Miami and much more! www.OnTeensToday.com