Parenting may come easily for some couples, but for most folks, it’s not without challenges. Crying babies, temper tantrums, hitting and biting (infants and toddlers), leaving messes, not doing chores, missed curfews, hanging out with forbidden friends, concealing prohibited cellphones, sneaking out – children can put parents to the test. Think parenting is hard when mom and dad are under the same roof? Try it when you’re divorced!
We’ve all heard about couples where one parent is the “disciplinarian” and the other is the “fun parent,” but is that sustainable when a couple is divorced? Probably not because it can lead to inconsistency, a lack of structure, and problems for the parent who is trying to maintain order and lay down the law.
Children Need Consistency
Children thrive on structure and consistency and when their parents are divorced, they need it more than ever. It would be unproductive for a 10-year-old child to have to go to bed at 9:00 PM at mom’s house, when she can stay up until midnight at dad’s, even on school nights. If the parents have joint custody, this can really wreak havoc on her sleep schedule and affect her studies in school.
Ideally, divorced parents should put their heads together on “house rules” and ensure they are consistent in both homes. This way, the children have structure and they don’t end up resenting the stricter parent.
Here are some house rules that parents should keep consistent in both homes:
- Disciplinary actions for bad behavior,
- Dating (for high school students),
- Homework rules,
- If and when an older child can get a job,
- Bedtime on school nights,
- When the child can see friends, and what conditions have to be met first, like doing their homework and chores,
- Bedtime on Friday and Saturday nights,
- How and when the child cleans up after themselves,
- How and when the child can earn extra money, and
- Saving money for the child’s first car (how this will happen).
“...when it is clear something needs changing, try to discuss it with the other parent. Some parents find they can talk about these things on the phone. Others find it is best to have a parenting meeting and talk things over face to face. Even if you find you've got to change one of the rules on the fly, on your own, make sure you let the other parent know after the fact what has happened,” wrote Brette McWhorter Sember for womansdivorce.com.