Single parents become single parents through a variety of ways: divorce, failure of a live in relationship, pregnancy resulting from a one night stand or friends with benefits, and some do it deliberately, choosing to have a child alone for various reasons.
Most of the ways that a single parent becomes single involve another parent. Sometimes it’s an amicable end and you can easily remain friends with your child’s other parent. Other times, the end seems more like the beginning of World War 3; you and your child’s other parent argue over every little thing and cannot agree on a compromise.
When faced with a bitter, unfriendly ending, how can you do what is best for your child?
1. Be as civil as possible to the other parent.
Though it may be hard to bite your tongue and not comment on your child’s father’s new girlfriend’s obviously fake breasts or the fact that your child’s mother now cooks meals out of a box instead of a homemade from scratch meal, if it doesn’t harm your child, keep the nasty comments to yourself. You don’t have to be best friends, but be polite.
2. Back the other parent up.
The other parent may have very different rules at his or her house, but you need to back them up on those rules whenever possible. You may think that it’s unfair that your child’s father won’t let her have a snack before dinner, but if that’s the rule he’s set, you need to support it. Explain to your child that you and the other parent have different rules, but that the child needs to follow the rules of the house they’re in.
3. Do not badmouth the other parent.
You may know your ex-husband is a lying cheater, but your child shouldn’t. The problems that led to the end of your relationship with your child’s other parent have nothing to do with the child (unless you left because your child was being abused or neglected) and your child should not have to be caught in the middle. In situations where your child asks a question that the honest answer would be something negative about your former partner, formulate an answer that is vague or puts the responsibility on the other parent to deal with.
For example, if your child asks why his father doesn’t come to see him, you could give a vague answer such as “Daddy’s really busy lately” or you could tell your child that you don’t know, but he can call his father that night and ask him.
4. Do not interfere in your child’s time with her other parent.
Though it may be hard for you to let go and let your child go with her other parent for the weekend or a few weeks in the summer, you need to do it. Your child needs to bond with both her parents, and she can’t do that if you’re calling every half hour to see how things are going or telling her Dad how to do things with her. Ideally, you wouldn’t call at all, but we all know that usually isn’t the way it works. So try to limit yourself to one call a day, perhaps right before bedtime so you can hear about their day.
5. If you can’t agree, involve a third party.
If you have a major issue that can’t be resolved and that can’t be looked at as an “agree to disagree” situation, involve a third party to mediate and help you come to the best solution for your child. This third party may be a guardian ad litem, a mediator, a lawyer, or a mutual friend who will put your child’s best interests first. This also applies to transferring the child back and forth for visitations: if you cannot be polite to each other, and will only argue or be rude to each other, involve a third party.
Whether you drop the child off to that third party who then passes the child on to the other parents, and then vice versa, or merely have the third party present to force you two to bite your tongues and get along, the involvement of that other person can make the transition smoother. You can find a list of mediators with proven experience in Ocala here.
It can be difficult to keep the peace after the end of a relationship, especially when things end badly or one parent moves on before the other. But if you keep these basic rules in mind, you can sidestep many problems and keep things as stable and balanced as possible for your child.