Has Divorce Changed Your Parenting Style?
If you’ve never taken the time to consider your parenting style, doing so during your divorce or separation may feel like seriously imperfect timing. But your parenting style has far-reaching effects on your relationship with your children, and both will need extra time and attention in the months after a divorce.
Parents who assess their own parenting style can gain valuable insight into the interactions with their children. Do you have issues problem solving together? Have you been relying too heavily on consequences without conversations about expectations? A deeper understanding of your own methods and motivations can help you answer questions like these and lead to a more impactful relationship with your children overall.
Although most parents have one dominant parenting method, parenting styles can still be affected by a variety of internal and external factors. Especially after a divorce, it can be helpful to check in with yourself to identify if your parenting style has been affected, either for the better or for the worse, and plan any necessary corrections.
Factors that can affect your parenting style
Divorce and separation force families to face a great deal of change, typically over a relatively short period of time. As family structures change, parenting styles, too, can be affected by the shifting responsibilities of two-household families. But immediately after a divorce, both stability and consistency are essential when trying to ease the transition for children. To keep your methods on point, it helps to understand some common factors that can affect parenting styles after divorce.
It’s common for parents to feel some level of guilt after a divorce simply because they are worried about how their children will cope with the change. If guilt begins to weigh too heavily on you, however, you may feel yourself slipping into certain permissive parenting practices.
Permissive parenting can be defined as when parents are emotionally responsive to their children but also overly indulgent and reluctant to hold their children accountable for their actions. While being in tune with your child’s emotional needs after a divorce is absolutely paramount, when accompanied by lax expectations, children can be robbed of much-needed structure and discipline.
It’s important to maintain the same expectations of your children and their behaviour after a divorce. So if your children are acting out by flouting household rules or treating family members rudely, for example, do not allow the guilt you may be experiencing to be the sole determiner of how you respond. It’s possible to still balance discipline with the emotional needs of your children, and doing so helps to maintain structure after a divorce.
Getting divorced will be one of the most stressful experiences many co-parents will live through. Stress can have far-reaching and prolonged effects on our moods, behaviour, and relationships, so its influence over your parenting style shouldn’t be underestimated. If stress defines your interactions with your children after a divorce, you may find your reactions are harsher than before, adopting more aspects of an authoritarian parenting style.
Authoritarian parenting, sometimes seen as the opposite of permissive parenting, is characterised as restrictive and punishment-laden. Authoritarian parenting styles are also less responsive to the emotional needs of children, focused on exerting control over behaviours instead of finding solutions to issues as a team.
Your child’s reaction to your divorce or separation may also have a profound effect on your approach to parenting. Children will process divorce in different ways—some may act out while others may retreat into themselves—and how you parent must change with their needs to a certain extent.
How your parenting style adapts to these new conditions is important. It’s vital to determine if your change in parenting style meshes with the evolving needs of your children. Certain situations may call for stricter parenting, whereas others may be better served with more flexibility. Understanding the needs of your children is the first step to figuring out how to approach your own situation. If your child is struggling after your divorce, consider enlisting the help of a mental health professional that can guide them in better expressing their own needs to you and your co-parent.
Finding a Balance Between Styles
Balance is critical in relationships, and parent-child relationships are no different. The authoritative parenting style has been largely touted as one of the most effective, with its balance of responsive and demanding behaviours. Authoritative parents typically work with their children to find solutions to issues while maintaining high expectations for their child’s actions. Discipline is preferred over arbitrary punishments in authoritative parenting, and independence and maturity in children are both encouraged and fostered by parents.
How to assess your parenting style
So how can you determine when your parenting style may be veering slightly off track from where you want it to be? It can be helpful to start by asking yourself a few questions:
- When your children’s behaviour or choices do not live up to your expectations, how do you respond?
- When you and your child disagree about how to handle an issue, how do you approach the conversation?
- Are your responses consistent and non-arbitrary?
By answering the above questions honestly, you’ll be in a good place to assess whether your parenting style has been responsive to your own child’s needs while still expecting a high level of maturity and independence from them.
It would be unrealistic to expect your parenting style to not be affected by your divorce or separation; however, you owe it to yourself and your children to periodically assess your parenting methods with honesty and openness. Your children do not expect perfection from you, but they do expect fairness. If you find your parenting style slipping into a potentially unhealthy territory, acknowledge your mistake to both yourself and them.
You do not need to handle the effects of your divorce on your parenting alone. If you find yourself struggling with the consequences your separation has had for your relationship with your children, enlist the help of a professional. Mental health professionals can help you identify unhealthy behaviours and develop a plan for correcting them. As long as you’re taking steps to build a happy and healthy relationship with your children, you’ll be moving in the right direction.