Before the divorce, you and your wife probably had parenting rules for the kids for everything from curfew to cell phone use. All those things that you had agreed on with your ex? Those are about to get tossed out the window. The parenting rules will be ever-changing now, and here’s divorce advice for dads on making those changes work for you.
Kids are always trying to look grown up and asking how long they have to wait to reach certain milestones. When can they get a cell phone? When can your daughter get her ears pierced? When can your son get a car?
Why You Should Expect the Rules to Change
She pulled a fast one, and you never saw it coming. You wife said “yes” when you said “no”, and now your daughter is screaming and crying that she hates you.
The new rules fall into two categories: the ones that will have a fringe benefit for you and the ones that feel like your ex is giving you the middle finger.
All kids try to play their parents against each other. When mom says no, they go running to dad. Or vice versa. The only difference when parents are divorced is that kids stand a better chance of succeeding.
As much as each parent says they’re not going to use the kids…they do. If you’re completely honest with yourself, there’s probably a time you did it too. It’s not an excuse and it’s nothing to be proud of but it’s important to acknowledge that every divorced parent has done it at some time or another.
Making the Changes Work for You
If their mother moves the goal posts without talking to you first, it might work out better for you anyway. It might take some effort to find the upside but it’s definitely there. In this case, our divorce advice for dads is to roll with the punches when you can.
Consider cell phones. When you were married, you might have had an agreement that your kids would get their first phone when they started high school.
Then, all of a sudden, your 6th grader has the latest iPhone. What is that about?
Yes, your ex is might be playing the “I’m cooler than dad” card but she also might be trying to make the kids happy because she feels guilty. Whatever her motivation, it’s happened. Your child has a phone far sooner than you think he should. There’s nothing you can do about it without looking like a total rat to your kid.
If you confront your ex, it will lead to an argument. It may also be exactly what she wants. Sometimes a person is just spoiling for a fight and by reacting to her actions, you give her exactly what she’s looking for.
Instead of losing your cool, consider the benefits you’re going to get now that your kid has a phone:
You want to protect your kid. As your kids get older they take on more after school activities and hang out with their friends. Married couples have a hard enough time keeping up with their children’s social lives, never mind divorced parents. When you’ve split up, the logistics become increasingly more complicated. Whose turn is it to pick up the kids? Is the soccer game today or tomorrow? Your child having a cell phone creates an extra layer of safety for him and gives you some peace of mind.
Kids aren’t great at keeping in touch. They’re just not. Especially twelve-year-old boys. If your middle schooler has a phone, he’s better able to keep in touch with you. If you miss your son, just text him. If he misses you or is having a hard day, he can call you directly without having to go through his mom. Kids are perceptive and sensitive to their parents’ emotions. Your son may not contact you as often as you’d like because he doesn’t want to upset his mother. A cell phone eliminates that stress for the kids and gives you a new way to stay in touch.
- Avoiding the ex
If your divorce has been particularly contentious, this is a huge benefit. Being able to call your children directly means that you don’t have to go through your ex. You don’t have to text her to ask if you can speak to the kids at night. You don’t have to call to ask what your kids want for Christmas. You are both still parents so you’ll have to speak about report cards, doctors’ appointments, and vacation plans but you don’t have to go through her every time you want to touch base with your kid.
- Fun with your kids
There are all kinds of multi-player apps and games available these days. If your kids like word games, set up Words with Friends; if they like Pictionary, try Draw Something. If the kids aren’t into games you can always send them photos or videos through messaging apps like WhatsApp so they don’t run up your phone bill. Even just a goofy selfie will be enough to make your kids smile. Downloading a game or sharing photos is a great way to remind your kids that you’re always there for them, even if you’re not in the same house.
- Saving you money
Even if the other benefits aren’t doing much to make you feel better, consider this: your ex bought the phone without consulting you so at least she saved you the trouble of paying the monthly phone bills. Saving money is always great divorce advice for dads!
Almost any rule changes will end up having multiple benefits in the long run. If your ex buys your kid a car earlier than you agreed, just go with it. Now you have someone to run the store when you’re out of milk and your kids can come to you instead of you always driving to them. Yes, there are concerns about safety and maturity but just try to focus on the positive. If you don’t, you’ll be consumed by anger and worry.
Some Rule Changes Will Still Tick You Off
That’s right, sometimes your ex changes the rules without consulting you and there is no conceivable benefit for you. That’s when it feels like you’ve been punched in the gut. There’s no divorce advise for dads that can get around the fact that sometimes you will be stuck with a bad situation.
An example might be your little girl getting her ears pierced. Maybe you agreed this would not be allowed until she turned 13 and then on her 10th birthday she her mother gets it done. Once the deed is done, there isn’t much you can do. You might think she’s too young but if you force her to take out the earrings, your daughter will hate you and your ex has still changed the rules without consulting you.
You have to suck it up. Tell your daughter how beautiful she looks and embrace the fact that you now have a new avenue for birthday presents. For the rest of your life, you can buy your little girl earrings when you don’t know what else to get.
If you can’t leave it alone, don’t just go off on your ex. Don’t let the conversation devolve into a spitting match of “You did this…” and “Oh yea, well you did that…”
Dude, you know she’ll tell your daughter that you’re ticked off about it, right?
Practical Divorce Advice for Dads: Don’t Up the Ante
Sure, you could do exactly what your ex is doing by buying your kids a TV for their room or letting them go bungee jumping, but why bother? Giving in to your kids’ every whim is not going to make them patient, responsible adults and is just going to make your relationship with your ex that much worse.
Don’t put your kids in the middle by sinking to her level. Kids know when they are being used, and they will love you all the more for being a strong and protective dad.
Do you have divorce advice for dads on parental competition? Tell us your experience in the comments below.
You can take advantage of technology to avoid dealing directly with your ex if you Use Google Calendar for Effective Co-parenting. Maybe you can avoid hassles by getting it in writing. Check out how Co-parenting Agreements Put Your Kids’ Best Interests First.
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