Human beings are designed to exist in family units. We are programed to seek love, acceptance and support in the bonds of mentorship, friendship, romantic relationships and family ties. As far back as archeologists can trace, human beings have existed in groups, or family units. The beauty of human existence is that our environment within the family is constantly evolving; as children grow and their ability to understand more complex concepts and take on responsibility increases, the parent-child bond changes. This evolution occurs from birth to death. This system of learning is unique to every person on earth. Everyone has different parents, siblings, customs, cultures, etc… We’re going to look at why we should invest time, energy, and love into our children, how to make it happen amid all the distractions of life and why it matters.
I want to take a second to acknowledge that families are diverse and unique in every home. These basic principles can be applied to all family situations, Grandparents raising grandchildren, adopted children, step children etc… the foundation is the same:
Children of all ages want to be heard and understood, loved and cared for, and given room to grow within safe boundaries.
This sounds simple enough, but we have the added challenge of being human ourselves. We make mistakes; we have our own stressors and battles. The key is not letting them cross over into the relationships we form with our children. One stressor we want to highlight today is divorce. Divorce is unique in the challenges that it brings, because it affects an extremely wide range of relationships. The husband and wife make the ultimate decision, but it’s changing the nature of In-Law relationships, extended family relationships, and parent-child relationships. Add in the complexity of navigating puberty to that and what are you left with?
Divorce + Teenager =???????????
So how do we make sure that we aren’t making our job unnecessarily difficult?
How do we minimize the backlash that teens are so famous for after a major life change, like a divorce?
We Invest. What does that mean “to Invest” in a person? How many times in your life, have you put time, energy and emotion into building a relationship and were gratified to have that person be there for you when you had to make an “emotional withdrawal” .
I have a best friend that I’ve known for over 20 years. We were kids together, we have fought, and we have lived thousands of miles apart, but we can count on each other for support whenever we need it. Why? Because we invested in the relationship, we remember birthdays =deposit, we check in = deposit, we really listen when the other needs to talk = deposit.
Contrary to that I’m sure we’ve all had that one friend who doesn’t invest in us, but is constantly making withdrawals, the type that isn’t your friend until you have something they need.
Great, but how does this figure into parenting?
The concept is the same, positive experiences that express love, take time and energy are deposits. These can be actions, conversations, quality time, and showing trust.
I’m going to pretend to parent myself for a minute, and do these steps as if my teenage self is being evaluated.
Start by identifying things that are important to your child, or that your child enjoys
- Showing horses
- Spending time with friends
- Having someone to talk to
Next identify things that sadden, anger or frustrate your child.
- Not being trusted
- Being alone
- Being excluded
- Not being talked to
Now take your first list and identify ways to that you can show positive interest in your child. This is going to take more effort than just being a chauffeur, but doesn’t mean you have to smother them. Balance while being involved is going to be key.
- Showing Horses
- Let your child teach you about their horse
- Be present at horse shows
- Spend time with friends
- Host a just-for-fun party for your child and their friends; movie night, ice cream party, etc..
- Be kind to their friends (even if you don’t particularly like their friends, by being friendly, they will feel more comfortable spending time at your house, where you know they are safe)
- Support your child when they want to show interest in their friend’s hobby’s i.e. watching the friend’s soccer game together.
- Having someone to talk to
- Ask open questions and respond without judgement.
- Ask if they just need to get it off their chest or if they want your help solving the problem.
- Be present; get off your phone, set limits for yourself, so you are available to them at some point every day.
- Join a book club together
- Form your own book club
- Take a trip to the library together every couple of weeks.
- Use dinner time to ask questions about the books they are reading and discuss character development.
- Take a class together
- Plan a meal to cook together weekly
- Don’t get mad if they make a mess, encourage creativity, and help them understand the responsibility of cleaning up.
This is a big job, so I’m going to leave you for this week and let you start your lists. Take your time making your lists, and keep them handy so that they can be added to or adjusted as necessary. We’ll continue this in a three part series.
Please visit our resource page for links to books that can give more details on co-parenting and helping children adjust to separation and divorce. If you have a topic you would like to see a blog post on, or questions about the above post, you can send an email to Megan at Support@DivorceNM.com
Megan BS FCS
This post is also available in: Spanish