Divorcing parents must abide by own list of dos and don’ts

Published 8:20 am Monday, July 6, 2015

QUESTION: Are there specific things that divorcing parents need “to do and not do” in the best interests of their children?

ANSWER: We are taught many “do” and “don’t do” lists in our lives as we are growing up. Most parents teach “the list” for manners. I remember my mom saying, “It’s OK to do that at home, but you know not to do that in public, right?” As I recall, it had to do with putting my feet on the coffee table in the living room when watching TV or stretching to get something at the supper table instead of asking for it to be passed to me. In athletics, there is the “do and don’t do” list about good sportsmanship: for instance, we watch coaches and teams, winners and losers, shake hands at the end of intense competitions.

Yes, there is a “do and don’t do” list for divorcing parents. The “Don’t” list includes: 1) Don’t fight in front of your children; 2) Don’t talk badly about the children’s other parent; 3) Don’t discuss adult issues, like money matters, in front of your children. The “Do” list includes: 1) Do tell your children that the divorce is not their fault and they can’t fix it; 2) Do ask your children what would make the circumstances easier for them; then listen closely and try to follow their suggestions.

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While divorcing parents are no longer marriage partners, they have a responsibility to be parenting partners. Railroad tracks are a good symbol of effective parenting after divorce. Divorced parents are no longer “touching.” They are respectful of the space and boundaries between them; however, they are able to cooperate in moving forward in the same direction, with the same goals, in the best interests of their children.

If you would like to talk about the challenges in raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Linea de Apoyo at 1-877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out www.familiesandcommunities.org and books, CDs and DVDs on divorce and children at the PRC Specialty Library (105 First Street SE, Austin).