When you are a parent, it can seem like every minute is “parenting time.” However, when you are a divorced parent sharing custody, parenting time may be limited to a point where quality time becomes even more essential.
Cultivating memories and creating positive regard is an essential component of child development. Maintaining a communicative and polite relationship with your co-parent is also crucial to the health and well-being of your child. Finding meaningful activities to do with your child that don’t involve money can be challenging. So with only so much time to spend, how can you promote the parent-child relationship?
There are millions of ideas, but here are few to try:
Toddlers and Preschool-Aged Children
- Color a picture and mail the masterpiece to relatives.
- Play dress-up or put on a puppet show.
- Go to the park and fly a kite.
- Splash in mud puddles and find frogs.
- Build a fort and watch cartoons or read books.
- Help your child buy or make birthday presents for your ex. This helps your children become responsible and honorable while enhancing your relationship with your co-parent.
- Go to the zoo.
- Go to the library and check out beginning-reader books.
- Take a class together.
- Ride bikes.
- Learn a new recipe together and host a special dinner with grandparents.
- Learn who your child’s friends are and invite them over for a play date.
- Go to their sporting events, cheer them on, and take them out for ice cream after the game.
- Know who your child’s friends are and be open to having friends over—a lot.
- Teach them a skill or craft.
- Tell them about your childhood or learn your genealogy together.
- Discover a new city.
- Read the books your teens are assigned at school and ask questions. Learn your teenager’s teachers and their grades in school.
It should also be noted that during parenting time, the non-custodial parent often feels left out and guilty for not being more readily available. This can breed overindulgence, spending sprees for unnecessary items, and conflicts with the other co-parent. Compatible values and complimentary rules are the way to best navigate the divorce climate. Some thoughts to consider:
Compatible values and complimentary rules are the way to best navigate the divorce climate.
- As much as possible, keep the rules the same in both houses. Kids need the structure of rules to feel safe and secure in their understanding of the world. If you decide to change the rules at your house, talk with your co-parent and collaborate. Remember, just because you are divorced doesn’t mean your parenting obligations change. Kids still need structure, bedtimes maintained, homework done, curfews met.
- Kids should never be messengers or spies for parents. It is okay to ask, “How is your mom?” It is not okay to ask who she went to dinner with last night. It is also okay to say, “Say hi to your grandma,” but not okay to tell your child to instruct the other parent to send money “on time this time.”
- No bashing or criticism of the other parent; it is extremely harmful to your child. They are part of the other parent and a part of their life, and have a right to love each parent freely without the influence of adult relationship issues.
- Don’t try to buy your child’s love with toys and trips and things you know you wouldn’t have done if you had stayed with your co-parent. For instance, when you were married, you may have decided not to buy a new car for your 16-year-old because you wanted them to drive a clunker for a while or buy their own vehicle. As tempting as it may be to be the financial hero now that you are divorced, don’t buy them that shiny SUV they’ve been coveting. Keep your ego out of your child’s growth.
Parenting is challenging enough, let alone as a divorced parent. Finding ways to make it more meaningful and loving by providing opportunities to connect and have fun (without large monetary expenditures) takes some creativity, but is an investment in the development of your child.
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