For you, my incredibly amazing, magnificent and beautiful daughter on her graduation from High School, I give this ‘Letter to My Daughter on Her Graduation.’ It was hard to write this then, and still hard to read today. Several years have passed since I first wrote this to you, and as I read it again, I’m struck by how true it still is! It will still be valid in another couple of years, and even more beyond that. You continue to amaze me daily and I’m struck so often by how you “have it!”
Hi. This is your father. Many things below I’ve said to you in person. But I believe important things are best backed up with the written word. Most of this letter is a bunch of stuff you may, or may not, decide is useful. I know when I was graduating high school I didn’t give my father’s advice much thought. But I promise you, if he had written it down for me, I guarantee I would find it valuable today. Hopefully you’ll find a few nuggets buried in this letter to my daughter now and later.
You’ll excuse me for overstepping my boundaries if you feel I have in writing it down. Since I can’t buy you a car for graduation or fly you around the world as a present when you turn 18 soon (both things I’d love to do, but alas, it ain’t gonna happen), what I can do is this. I can write a letter to my daughter. Sure, I can write you a letter any time, but I’ve decided to pour out what I consider to be the real morsels of truth in life. I’ve found these over the years, with most coming from pain and wrong choices. You’ll make those too, but maybe this letter will help you avoid the ones I made so you can go make your own, less painful ones.
To My Daughter
So… here’s the most important stuff (read this next paragraph if nothing else, please):
In all the time you have been on this planet, I have loved you more than words will ever express. You are my daughter, and I am amazed by you. Always and forever. I wish I had more to offer you than simply my pride and love, though I hope they will suffice in this moment. I’m truly in awe at what a smart, sweet, kind, caring and optimistic young woman you have become. You are quite simply the best thing that ever happened to me, and I’m really glad you’re here. I love you. Looking good, kiddo!
Now, on to the graduation address…
That I am sitting here writing to you on the eve of your high school graduation and a month before your official status as a young adult has me simply flabbergasted. I could not possibly have prepared for this day, and yet here it is. What I find more odd is how vivid my memories are of my own graduation and then later your birth. I can still see you as you were before school began for you, when the world is full of wonder. And now you are about to set out on the next chapter. I can’t describe the joy and sadness that swirl in my emotions.
You are a young lady now, hardly the small child of my memories. I haven’t the foggiest notion of how to really talk to you, though it is absolutely my honor, privilege and duty to keep trying, for as long as I live.
Truth told, I’ve never considered myself a very good father, and in many ways I’ve been simply lousy. I’m sorry is about all I can really offer. The older you get, the older I get, the more likely the struggles of my adult life will become things you know more about, and in so doing, will likely shift some of the distance between us, though it will never excuse the places where I failed you. For this, all I can do is say I’m sorry and ask for your forgiveness.
Of course, there are also many little things that I have had a part of along the way that have certainly helped shape the fine young woman you are today. I’d like to think that some of the adventures, people and places I have shown you had an impact, and that my family has had some positive growth for you as well.
Your mother and I made a deal a long, long time ago that no matter what happened, we would always do our best to teach you about the world as best we could without disparaging the other. I think it served you well. I hope it did. It wasn’t easy, for either of us.
Somehow, I missed the part where you stopped being a little girl and started becoming a young adult, and it definitely happened along the way. The young woman I see before me is really an amazing person, and I want to do everything in my power to help ensure she stays that way.
So, I’ve been watching you for awhile now, and I’d like to offer some insight into the world you are about to enter. There are things your father still knows that you do not. There are some pieces of advice you’re unlikely to hear from anyone else, and some of them may piss you off a bit, but if I don’t tell you, no one else will, and forewarned is forearmed.
Know that first and foremost, what I want for you is a joyous and happy life filled with love, friendships, adventures, learning and growing. I also know that there are going to be tough days. I hope you’ll count on me as a voice of reason and wisdom as you grow into adulthood.
Know also that no matter what anyone ever says, you are perfect just exactly as you are. You’re never going to be too short, too fat, too dark, too weak, too dumb, or anything else that people may come along and tell you that you are. Surround yourself with people who remind you of how awesome you are, and avoid the ones that don’t. The only person you need permission from, from now on, is you.
I hesitate to say this part, and I think it is necessary. The world is sometimes cruel and evil people really are out there. You have been incredibly blessed so far that perhaps the worst hardship you have endured is your father’s lack of presence. I’m not aware that you have broken any bones, required surgery or had any close friends die on you or really fuck their lives up horribly while you had to watch. While I truly don’t know what personal struggles you have overcome (though I do know that you have a perseverance about you that is admirable, and that simply learning itself has been a life long challenge for you, and may well continue to be), what I do know is that you really have lived a fairly sheltered life compared to what many children in this world endure. There are a great many “bad” places on this planet, and I hope you’ll steer well away from them, or enter only safely with a good guide. I mean this as much about real, physical places and people as I do about bad decisions and poor judgment, your father being somewhat of an expert on bad decisions and poor judgment.
Your conservative father is deeply concerned that you may not give enough credence to the idea that capable as you are, you are also diminutive, attractive and generally optimistic. While these are cherished things, they are also traits a bad person will try to capitalize on. I don’t want you to be afraid of the world in any sense, and I do want you to be prepared.
My second really important point I want to get through to you is this: There is a huge, amazing world out there, too. Go see it.
You aren’t in a hurry, of course, and I don’t want to see you wasting a minute of your life longer than you have to here. There is an entire planet out there, and you should strive to see as much of it as you can. My largest regret in life is that I didn’t take advantage of the opportunities presented to me to travel in my youth. I got scared and stayed put. Don’t let your fear of the unknown keep you from travelling abroad or moving out of state for college.
This point you seem to grasp really well, but I want to say it anyway: Do what makes you happy! Find your passions and do them! They are absolutely the most important real life work you have to do. When you are passionate, you energize others. When you are working with purpose, you show the way. Trust the little voice in your head when it tells you that you should make art, or plant a garden or help someone. It’s a good voice. Too many ignore it, and after some time, they lose it. I can’t imagine how different and wonderful the world might be if more people listened to that good side just every now and then. Be unique and be that one that does!
Lastly for now, (since I expect to write you again at 21 and offer you a few more pieces of wisdom that you would currently call “lecturing”), I want to remind you again of something that is becoming more and more relevant as you mature.
You are a creative person. Unquestionably. So is your dad.
So, please, help me help you.
I don’t know enough about your inside life to really know what to offer, though I am quite certain that I have some answers for you, and I don’t want to pretend I know which ones are relevant. I just hope you’ll still consider asking me when you feel you have a tough one. This old man might know some things. My life hasn’t been easy. I haven’t followed the cookie-cutter path. I’m certainly not perfect. That’s where I can help. If there is one guarantee in this life it is that you will make mistakes and you will fail at something, and actually several things. I know I have. Dealing with it is extremely tough. I can speak to you as one that’s fought through many tough times, and continues to do so. Don’t seek advice from those that just don’t know.
My dearest daughter, all I really want you to know is that you are loved and supported by many.
I am so proud of you.
With Much Love,
It’s over. Finished. Your divorce is final. Now that it’s over, what are you going to do? Maybe you had pictured what life after divorce was going to be like, maybe you never thought about it until after the final decree was entered. Either way, now it’s time to face…
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Parenting after divorce can rapidly turn into open warfare with your ex. You’re angry and frustrated, but for the sake of your children and your sanity, it’s best to come up with some basic parenting ground rules for both households, and let the rest go.
The kids need consistency. Your parenting styles don’t have to be the same, in fact, exposure to different styles can help children enhance their decision-making skills. But there are some rules you and your ex should try your best to agree on.
You may have had a good-cop, bad-cop thing going on when you were together, but your kids need more stability and consistency after divorce. If one of you is strict and the other lets them get away with murder, or one of you is always buying them new things while the other is more money conscious, it can lead to conflict with your kids and even more between you and your ex.
The thing is, you can’t make your ex change her parenting style. You can ask her to change her rules, but you can’t expect her to say yes, and she can’t expect you to say yes if you don’t want to modify the rules at your house. To move forward, parenting after divorce means you and your ex both need to be willing to do what’s best for your kids.
Negotiating Terms for Parenting After Divorce
Even if you and their mother have different parenting styles, establishing ground rules in each home keeps things consistent for your kids. Their routines and schedules should be the same – the same wake-up/bedtime, the same homework routine (only watch TV after their homework’s done), getting to school and after-school activities on time, the same curfew if they’re old enough to go out at night, etc.
Children need routines. Routines bring stability and reassure your children that change is okay and that they have support and love in each household.
1.Protect your Kids from Conflict
Kids suffer from seeing their parents arguing or hearing them bad-mouthing each other. They love both parents and see themselves as half of you and half of your ex. Hearing you bitch about their mother, or the other way around can make them feel like the mean words are meant for them, too.
If you’re not happy with the way your ex is parenting, don’t get into an argument with her about it in front of your kids. Fighting causes your children to feel stressed and anxious at a time that has already been hard on them
2. It’s How You Say It
If you tell your ex to do something, chances are she’s not going to do it. People are much more likely to consider a different point of view if they are educated about it and then asked if they’d consider changing their rules. If you explain why it’s best for your kids to read a book rather than play on their iPads before bed, and give examples where reading helped put them to sleep, she’s more likely to consider modifying her rules than if you straight out tell her to change her stupid ways.
You’re divorced now, and don’t want to put up with any more of her garbage. But, while you and your ex may not have a marital relationship anymore, you still have a parenting relationship. Instead of fighting with each other about whose parenting is right or wrong and what each should be doing differently, focus on what is and isn’t working for your children and why.
3. Suck It Up for The Kids’ Sake
When push comes to shove, your ex may not be willing to change her ways at all. As long as your kids aren’t in imminent danger, you’ll just have to suck it up to protect them from extra stress and tension. If both parents have the kids’ best interests in mind, it’s okay to have different parenting styles because ultimately your kids are being loved and supported and that’s most important of all.
If your kids are doing their homework, staying healthy, getting exercise, attending their extra-curricular activities and maintaining their responsibilities, then you are not giving in by letting go of how their mother is going about it in her house. The only thing you have to agree on is the health, well-being, and support of your children.
4. Keep Your Kids in the Loop
While you need to protect your kids from drama, you should also be communicating with your kids. If you and your ex have different rules for each house, explain to them that mom and dad are different and that they have different rules.
You can say “At daddy’s house you can drink juice, and at mommy’s house you can drink milk and water.” Don’t make one sound better or worse, and don’t try to get the kids on your side by saying, “Dad’s rules are better.” Even if they are!
Your kids should not have to choose sides. If you don’t communicate with your kids, they’ll expect the rules to be the same in each place, so make sure they’re aware of the differences. This will help the kids know where they stand in both households.
5. Consult an Expert
Can’t stop fighting? Don’t hesitate to get an expert involved. If you two are at an impasse on a big issue that has to do with your child’s education or health, enlist an expert with an objective view on what’s best for your child.
Sometimes both parents get so carried away with being right, they’re no longer thinking about what’s best for the kids. Or maybe other relatives or new partners are trying to wade in. Use the expert to cut through some of the crap and get down to what’s best for your kids.
Parenting after divorce can be a struggle, especially if you and your ex don’t see eye to eye. When you know your children get support, love, and care in both households, don’t sweat the details. You are still the best Dad they ever had.
(c) Can Stock Photo / georgemuresan
As if divorce itself isn’t bad enough, when there are kids involved, it’s even worse. In fact, most newly divorced dads would say the hardest part about divorce is missing the kids when they are with the ex-wife. Going to bed without those bedtime romps and kisses every night or waking up to a lonely, quiet house can be extremely tough.
The good news is that you’ll learn to cope with the children being away. You’ll never stop missing the kids, but you can adjust to your new lifestyle. Here are five tips for coping when you miss your kids.
Stop Beating Yourself Up
As a newly divorced dad, it is really easy to blame yourself when aren’t with the kids. After all, you chose or agreed to this divorce, right? You may catch yourself saying things like “I am a horrible father for choosing my happiness over being with my children” or “I chose to be without my kids. I should have stayed even though I was unhappy.” You may feel guilty and selfish now that the reality of shared custody has set in.
Beating yourself up when you are missing the kids isn’t going to do anyone any good. After all, would you rather have the children growing up in an unhappy home? Two separate and happy parents can be better than two unhappy parents together. Remind yourself that choosing divorce in an unhappy marriage is often best for everyone involved, including the kids. Especially if the divorce wasn’t your idea, then you had no choice and shouldn’t beat yourself up.
Keep Yourself Busy When You Are Missing the Kids
Keeping yourself occupied will not only help you pass the time when you don’t have your kids, but it will help pull you out of a slump and begin the process of rebuilding your new life. You’ll have more alone time now so you might as well start to use it and enjoy it.
Fill your calendar with enjoyable activities when the kids are with your ex. Use this time alone to get back into a long-lost hobby or do something for yourself. Read a book, see a movie, focus on your career or learn a new hobby. Treat yourself to something special. As you move on and begin to date again, plan your dating for when you won’t have the kids. This way you will have something to look forward to and focus on during the times your children are away.
Take Care of Yourself
Divorced parents are a little bit like masochists. They feel guilty for having fun or taking care of themselves when they aren’t with their children. But when it comes down to it, you must take care of yourself following a divorce if you want to be able to take care of your children. Taking care of yourself will make you a better father, and it will set a good example for your children. Divorce can lead to anxiety and depression (especially when you’re desperately missing your children), and if you don’t make an effort to take care of yourself, this can spill over to your kids. So, take the time to get the help and care that you need to make the transition to single fatherhood. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of your children.
Be Flexible with Schedule Changes
Take advantage of every chance you get to spend with your kids. While it may be tempting to say “no” to your ex’s request for you to take the kids an extra night so she can go on a business trip or a date, take the high road and think about what you want. Is your desire to hurt her or cause her grief larger than your desire to get the kids an extra day? Take advantage of the extra time and thank her for it!
Communicate with Your Children
Divorce is tough on children too. They may have similar feelings of anxiety or guilt with the new lifestyle, and they may worry about you when they go to stay with their mother. So, talk to them about it. Let them know you are going to be okay by telling them about your plans. Tell them about the book you are going to read or the old friend you plan to catch up with. Don’t let them see how sad you are when they leave. Take the burden off of them.
When you are missing the kids, you may spend hours wondering what they are up to and if they are okay. The best way to silence the worry is to ask. When you have your kids, ask about their week. Get curious. Ask about their school and their hobbies. Ask about their feelings and how they are doing. Listen to their answers. Just don’t give in to the temptation to ask too much about their mother or criticize her to the kids. The kids don’t need to be in the middle of your relationship trouble.
Enjoy the Time With the Kids
Focus on the time you will have with the kids and don’t obsess about the times you won’t. When you aren’t with your kids, think about the activities you’ll enjoy together when they come back. It doesn’t matter what you do with your kids when they are with you. You don’t have to plan extravagant outings or spend a lot of money. Just enjoy your time together. Listen to their stories, make them giggle, and soak up every moment.
There are lots of distracted parents who don’t take full advantage of the time they have with their children. They turn on the TV or browse their smartphones while the kids play instead of getting down on the floor with them. They work extra hours at work instead of making it home every night for dinner.
Divorced parents, however, typically have more appreciation of the time with their children because it is limited. Sometimes quality is more important than quantity. Focus on what you do have. Be grateful for it.
Divorce is tough, and you can expect a period of adjustment after the final decree is entered. There will be days you don’t see your children at all, and it can be easy to focus on how much you are missing the kids. This can lead to even more unhappiness and loneliness.
Remeber, you have the power to decide what to focus on. You can choose to focus on the time you do have together and make the most of the time you are away from them. Divorce changes everything, and part of that change includes personal growth and improvement in relationships – including your relationships with your kids.
While the amount of time you spend with them may decrease, the quality of the time can actually increase. Focus on the positive. It may not make you miss your kids any less, but it can help you cope and adjust to the divorced lifestyle.
(c) Can Stock Photo / krasyuk
There was a time when family court judges automatically ruled in favor of the mother. While vestiges of this default primary custody bias may still be felt in some areas of the country, the tide is turning. More and more, courts of law no longer presume that mothers are more fit parents than fathers. In fact, the odds of a dad being able to prove that the child’s best bet for a full, safe and healthy life is for him to be the custodial parent is higher than ever. There are even states that have passed laws indicating that mothers will not be given preferential treatment in custodial disputes.
While times are changing, the reality is still that mothers are more likely to get custody of minor children. As a divorcing dad, your best bet in a custody hearing is to know some of the factors that judges commonly consider in making decisions. There are also steps you can take to outline why you are the better parent.
Factors in Awarding Custody
The first factor the courts look at is which parent is the primary caregiver. The term “primary caregiver” essentially refers to the parent who is best able to meet the child’s needs, who accepts the most parental responsibility and who has a history of primarily cared for the child. Which parent meets the child’s most basic needs? Who handles the feeding, doctor appointments, bedtime stories and bath time fun. Historically, women, even when they work full-time, are much more likely to take on the primary caregiver roles. So start taking on as many of these tasks as you’re able. The court will take into account your history of performing such tasks.
The second factor is the parent-child bond. What is your relationship with your child? Does your child miss you when you’re away? Have you spent time building a relationship with him or her.
They younger the child is the more strong the mother-child bond may be. This does not negate your effectiveness as a father, but it’s a result of more traditional parenting roles. Because mothers are conventionally the parent that primarily cares for the child from infancy to preschool, the closeness that develops is a different sort of bond than the one that is created between father and child. The more involved you have been in the rearing of a young child, the closer your overall bond will be.
In a lot of jurisdictions, many courts presume that kids will be kept emotionally whole and healthy by having a meaningful relationship with both parents. One of the primary factors taken under consideration is which parent is more likely to foster a healthy relationship between the children and the other parent. Any parent who has attempted to commit parental alienation — such as poisoning the child against the other parent, or refusing access to the child — will not fare well in any family court. And there are other extenuating circumstances, such as allegations of child abuse and instances of domestic violence, of course.
Try To Get Along With Your Ex
If there is any way that you can maintain a civil or even amiable relationship with your ex, it can only help your custody and visitation chances. Maintaining this type of relationship, especially in front of your children, will only help them in the long run. It’s a well-documented fact that kids who come from divorced homes fare much better if they are not used as weapons of manipulation. Allow your kids to maintain a positive, healthy relationship with both parents. Speak only positively of your ex. Not only will it help you in court, but it really is what’s best for your children.
Consider a Fathers Rights Attorney
If you’re hoping to be the custodial parent of your child, the best course of action is to first consult a family law attorney with experience in Fathers Rights. Because laws differ from state to state and family courts can be as unpredictable as the judges who preside over them, your attorney’s insight can become the most valuable tool you have at your disposal. He or she will have some insight into how certain judges will react in any given situation, and how they may lean in custody disputes. They can help you to build the strongest case possible.
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Leaves have changed colors, dried up and fallen to the ground; cold weather is upon us. Gone are the leisurely days spent outside playing in the heat of the day, brought on by blazing sunshine. Keeping kids entertained through the cold weather season can be a challenge. Consider some of the suggestions below for winter activities, ranging from free to cost involved, to keep your kids busy and happy when cold weather takes outdoor activities mostly off the table.
Free or Low-Cost Winter Activities
Schedule Play Dates
Take the pressure off yourself to entertain your little one directly and schedule a playdate for your child to connect with a friend (or group of friends). Offer to rotate ‘supervision’ of the play date so that you occasionally get a couple of hours to yourself while providing this same luxury to the friends’ parent(s) on alternate dates.
Kids often get tired of playing with the same old thing. However, have you ever noticed that if you tuck something away (maybe with the intention of donating as your child no longer plays with it) and it’s out of sight and out of mind for several weeks before your kiddo stumbles upon it again, s/he will suddenly show renewed interest? Happens all the time! Consider splitting up your kids’ toys into different boxes that you rotate each week or two. Your kids will feel like they have new toys to play with regularly, without your having to purchase new toys, and their interest will be captured!
Outdoor Snow and Cold Weather Activities
Should a day come when the sun is out, the temps are mild, and there is snow on the ground, take a page out of your childhood book of fun and engage the kids in an outdoor winter activity involving snow. Making snow angels, building snowmen and snow forts, and having a friendly snowball fight are all options involving the white stuff. Mixing up some “snow paint” is a fun, and colorful, option for outdoor play (simply mix water and several drops of food coloring in spray bottles and turn the kids loose). Sledding is sure to exert a LOT of energy and capture attention for hours at a time as well.
Play activities which engage the senses (touch, sight, taste, smell, and sound) are not only fun for young children, but vital in promoting sensory integration. When information is taken in through one or more of the senses, the mind must integrate and process the information into something meaningful (and generate an appropriate outward response). Learning to do this effectively is done through sensory play and should be started with children at the earliest possible age.
This isn’t to say that sensory play is only for very young children, children of all ages enjoy these activities! Sensory play provides an opportunity to expand language, practice fine motor skills, and can be calming for the child (even though the potential for a great mess is present. If the idea of messy play deters you from considering this option, read this article on 10 Tips to Keep Messy Activities Clean). If you’re wondering what types of activities fall into the “sensory play” category, here are a few quick suggestions: finger painting, play dough, sand box activities, making mud pies, a small trampoline with a surrounding net and filled with balloons is a short list.
There are fabulous resources online for sensory play activity ideas so don’t feel like you have to re-invent the wheel. Hands On As We Grow is one such resource. What is particularly fabulous about this website is that one can select the age of your child and get ideas that are tried and true, age-appropriate activities.
Low to Moderate Cost Winter Activities
Join a Gym That Offers Childcare
Many gyms have a childcare option that allows parents to take a breather of their own while the kiddos are entertained by loving and nurturing caregivers. The added bonus? Playtime with other kids roughly your child’s age which provides not only entertainment but also fosters vital social skills.
Find an Indoor Pool Swimming doesn’t have to be limited to summertime fun. Locate an indoor pool with the option for open swim and swim lessons. Your little ones will love splashing the morning (or afternoon, or evening) away and may even return home tired enough for a nice, long nap.
Sign Up for Extracurricular Activities
Tap into programs that support interests of your child. Organized sports, dance, and gymnastics are an obvious choice. But consider music, drama, art and other programs as well that will exercise your child’s mind and keep their hands busy for a time or two each week.
An afternoon matinee at a theatre showing movies that haven’t been recently released can provide a more cost-effective option for theatre experience if you need to get the little ones out of the house. Another option, even more cost-effective, is creating a cinematic experience right in your own home. Create movie ticket stubs, pop some popcorn (with help from the kids), turn down the lights and crank up the volume. Your living room can become a personal theatre with a movie of your choice via DVD, Netflix, or On-Demand.
Build a Ball Pit A popular feature at many indoor entertainment places (think: Chuck E Cheese) an indoor ball pit can provide hours of fun. These can be easily made at home. Some suggestions include an empty kid-size swimming pool or a pack and play (pending age of your child), filled with plastic balls that are easily purchased online and shipped directly to your house! A quick internet search will also yield options for pre-made ball pits that can be easily set up, taken down, and stored conveniently. Feeling the need for more DIY ball pit inspiration? Check out the creativity of others who have embarked on this journey via Pinterest: DIY Ball Pit.
Research indoor ice and roller skating options in your area. An out of the ordinary activity that will provide an opportunity for exercise and challenge skills with balance. Not sure you can teach skating skills? Check on opportunities for a coach to teach your little one the basics.
Indoor Trampoline Centers
Same as with indoor skating, indoor trampoline centers are popping up all over the place, and you’ve probably never met a kid who didn’t like to jump and bounce! Another out of the ordinary activity that offers an opportunity for exercise challenges skills with balance and coordination and probably results in a nice long nap afterward (for you too, dad!).
Children’s Museum Does your area have a Children’s Museum? Is there one nearby that can be accessed via day-trip? Exhibits at children’s museums give kids, from infants to pre-teens, the chance to explore, imagine, investigate and create. Activities are hands-on and interactive. Not only fun but expanding the mind!
Keeping things new and fun during cold weather months can certainly be a challenge. When kids split time between parents, dads can often feel added pressure to make the time spent with his kids exciting. Feeling pressure to make the very most of your quality time with the kids can leave one feeling stressed and zap the fun right out of an otherwise exciting opportunity.
Rest assured that a little creativity and imagination can go a long way for winter activities and not every visit needs to be filled with expensive outings. As your budget allows, more expensive outings can be added to the agenda. In between those times, consider hands-on fun activities that can be done at home for little to no cost. Plan ahead. Stock up on essential materials and relish in the opportunity to come alongside your child as he or she learns and grows, all the while having a total blast with dad!
(c) Can Stock Photo / dolgachov
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Parenting may be one of the most difficult things one does in life. After giving birth to a child, we are not provided with an instruction manual. In fact, we are provided with minimal direction at all. When our child is one with special needs or is a child on the spectrum, additional attention and care are often required. Add in parents living in separate households due to a divorce and the efforts and considerations multiply.
Being responsible and acting in our children’s best interests, regardless of how we feel about an ex-spouse is crucial to the well-being of our children. With no perfect set of rules or step-by-step instructions it may not be easy, but by keeping in mind some general guidelines it is possible to create more positive outcomes for all.
Parenting Time With A Child On the Spectrum
- The quantity and the quality of time spent with your child matters. Developing and maintaining a quality relationship with your child requires specific and regular time. However, it is not just the amount of time and when it occurs that matters, it is perhaps even more importantly, the quality of that time.
- Our children need us to be not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Staying attuned to their needs and emotionally involved in what’s going on with them. Holding an interest in the many aspects of their lives and staying actively involved in their day-to-day routines.
- During your parenting time, look to maintain and encourage existing relationships and routines with extended family members, friends, school, and other activities. It is important for your child as it adds to their feelings of security and sense of stability.
- Do not involve your children in adult issues, nor use them as pawns or messengers in communication with your ex. Instead, stick with their normal routines and relationships, and shelter them from the problems and responsibilities of their parents.
Strive for Consistency
- Since children with Asperger’s prefer routine and structure, working with your ex-spouse to maintain as much consistency between households will greatly benefit your child. While it’s not a must to maintain exact schedules, practices, and rules between households, the fewer deviations, the better it will be, especially with younger children.
- Differing perspectives and flexibility help children learn to act and adjust, but understanding they face similar sets of routines and expectations at each home is beneficial and less confusing for them.
- A child on the spectrum typically does well with ‘rules’ and consistent ones for important things like schoolwork, hygiene, and dis-allowed activities, between households, will make it, so your kids don’t have to remember which set is for which home.
- Additionally, similar systems of rewards for good behavior and consequences for broken rules, no matter under whose roof they occurred under are helpful. If your child earned extra computer time for good behavior or lost TV privileges for poor behaviors while with your ex, continue to uphold those rewards or consequences at your home, and your ex should do the same.
- Both parents need to be involved in all major decisions. Honest, open, and straightforward communication about your child’s well-being is essential. Your ex-spouse and you will need to set aside any differences between you to ensure you are acting in your child’s best interest.
- You owe it to your child to take an active role in decisions affecting their physical and mental health, as well as their education and social learning.
- Attend medical and health-related appointments together or alternate attending meetings, keeping the other informed about all discussions that took place with doctors, dentists, and therapists.
- Let your child’s school and teachers know about your child’s living arrangements. Communicate with your ex about class schedules, homework, extracurricular activities, and friends. Attend parent-teacher conferences, IEP meetings, and school events to stay informed and involved. It’s important for you to participate in school matters and not rely on your ex to always keep you up-to-date.
- Be on the lookout for signs of stress in your child. Anxiety and depression are quite common with kids on the spectrum. Healthy communication with your ex-spouse, as well as your child’s teachers and caregivers, will allow you all to address issues more quickly and easily if and when they arise.
Work Through Disagreements
- You are divorced for a reason; thus it’s highly likely you will disagree with your ex sooner or later. To help you find resolution at these times, keep the following in mind.
- Remain respectful and considerate, especially in front of the children. It will likely be very damaging for your child to witness the conflict between you parents. Continuous conflict is shown to damage a child’s well-being. Control your emotions and respectfully discontinue any volatile discussions with your ex until there is a more opportune time to talk.
- To resolve any disagreements, continue discussions with your ex, without your child around, until you can reach an agreement. If you cannot do that alone, enlist the help of a mediator or therapist.
- Pick your battles and compromise. Key issues or rules such as medical or educational matters are a must to work through but learn to compromise on things that aren’t as important to you, so you have the energy to stand your ground on the ones that are.
Find Support and Maintain Your Own Wellbeing
- Take care of yourself so that you can take care of your child. Your child relies on you, and unless you take care of your own physical, emotional and mental health, you will not be able to care for them adequately.
- Family, friends, and support groups are crucial in helping you deal with your emotions and uncomfortable feelings, such as anger, jealousy, or profound sadness. As you transition into your parenting role rely on your support system or look to more professional sources of support should you need it. Anger management programs, parenting classes, or formal group therapy sessions exist to help you work through difficult times and learn necessary skills to manage life healthily.
- The needs of a child on the spectrum evolve. As your child grows, it is important that you continue to educate yourself about their changing needs. Talk with their health care providers, school administrators, teachers, and counselors to stay abreast of any resources available to help you meet them.
- Your needs and those of your ex will likely also change as time goes on. Schedules may need to be adjusted as your child ages or progress through certain stages of development. Be prepared to alter or tailor parenting time to meet the needs of your child or the unique circumstances of the families in your or your ex-spouse’s household.
No matter what, keep the following important factors in mind: 1) your child needs as consistent of a schedule and routine as possible; 2) your child needs both a high quantity and a high-quality relationship with each parent, and 3) your child needs to be insulated from any adult parenting issues.
Communication is vital between you and your ex. While you may not have succeeded at it as a couple, it is an absolute requirement that you do so as divorced co-parents. Find a way to do it effectively and get help if you need. Your child deserves it.
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