As a part of the "Parenting Apart" workshop I had to attend when I was getting divorced, I was given a packet of all sorts of materials. Of everything I received or read during that time, this was by far the most important. It is something I refer to and make photocopies of, for anyone I know who's in a rough patch. It's called Divorce Rules, but it can be applicable to any active relationship involving children as well.
Helps as a reminder to not put too much of a burden on the little people- even if you're still married!
Directions: Post these rules on your refrigerator as a reminder of your commitment to care for your kid. Ask your child to let you know if you forget one of the rules. Don't reprimand your kid when he or she gives you this feedback.
Dear Parental Units, I’m just a kid, so please…
- Do not talk trash about my other parent. (This makes me feel torn apart! It also makes me feel bad about myself!)
- Do not trash about my other parent’s friends or relatives. (Let me care for someone even if you don’t.)
- Do not talk about your relationship to my other parent or other grown-up stuff. (This makes me feel sick. Please leave me out of it!)
- Do not talk about money or child support. (This makes me feel guilty or like I’m a possession.)
- Do not make me feel bad when I have a great time with my other parent. (This makes me afraid to tell you things.)
- Do not lock my visits or prevent me from speaking to my other parent on the phone. (This makes me very upset, like I am doing something wrong.)
- Do not interrupt my time with my other parent by calling all the dang time or by planning my activities during our time together.
- Do not fight in front of me or on the phone when I can hear you! (This just turns my stomach inside out!)
- Do not pump me for information when I am at my other parent’s home. (This makes me feel disloyal and dishonest.)
- Do not ask me to keep secrets from my other parent for you. (Secrets make me feel anxious and are bad form!)
- Do not ask questions about my other parent’s life or about our time together. (This makes me uncomfortable. So just let me tell you.)
- Do not give me verbal messages to deliver to my other parent. (I end up feeling anxious about their reaction. Call, email, text or leave them a message at work or put a note in the mail.)
- Do not send written messages with me or place them in my bag. (This also makes me uncomfortable.)
- Do not blame my other parent for the divorce or for things that go wrong in your life. (This really feels terrible! I end up wanting to defend them from your attack. Sometimes it makes me feel sorry for you and that makes me want to protect you. I just want to be a kid, so please, please…stop putting me in the middle.)
- Do not treat me like an adult, it causes way too much stress for me. (Do find an adult to talk with.)
- Do not ignore my other parent or sit on opposite sides of the room during my school or sports activities. (This makes me very sad and embarrassed. Please act like parents and be friendly, even if it is just for me.)
- Do let me take my stuff to my other home as long as I can carry them back and forth. (Otherwise it feels like you are treating me like a possession.)
- Do not use guilt to pressure me to love you more and do not ask where I want to live. It's not fair to me.
- Do realize that I have two homes, not just one. (It doesn’t matter how much time I spend there.)
- Do let me love both of you and see each of you as much as possible! Be flexible even when it is not part of our regular schedule.