The most comprehensive learning for children occurs through their senses. What they hear, they repeat; what they see, they mimic; what parents model to them become the child’s behavior patterns. When parents are aligned to put the child first, it is a recipe for success. If a child sees discord and different discipline in each home, they will learn these patterns and learn to manipulate the parents based on what they see works through what is modeled. The best gift divorced parents can give themselves and their children is to be in mutual agreement as to how to create consistency for the child in both homes. Children thrive on stability and consistency!
How to create consistency
Consistency is established by having the same daily habits, rules, and appropriate age development expectations in both homes. This allows for the child to have a sense of security because they know what is going to happen and when, no matter who they are with or where they are. For most children, it is hard to transition from one parent’s home and lifestyle to another. When things are different in both spaces, it becomes too much for the child to understand and too difficult to navigate. If emotional tension due to discord is added to this mix, it is likely that the child will act out in an attempt to cope with the transitions. Children take in everything they hear and observe, and they often don’t understand what they are experiencing, making it a time of development and growth in which stability is key.
Daily habits, such as what is expected of the child during the morning routine, after-school routine, and evening routine, are vital to creating the stability and consistency discussed. Bedtime affects the neurological development of the child, so being in agreement about a bedtime that is consistent is important. Children need sleep and lots of it! Making a laminated chart that outlines daily hygiene habits and routines for each home can be a way to be aligned in both homes.
Rules can be tricky, as each parent might have a different discipline strategy, but for the wellbeing of the child, one agreed upon strategy would work best. When a child knows that parents are in agreement, it prevents manipulation and parents being used by the child to get their way. Establishing expectations of behavior that are consistent in both homes will make it easy for the child to know that there is mutual respect between the parents. Also, what a great opportunity to model respect and unconditional love.
Tips to deal with disagreements
- Seek a neutral third party
- Write it down
- Consider what the child needs, and ignore the emotions toward the ex that might get triggered or stirred up
- Provide affirmations for the child
Disclaimer: This document is intended for general information only. It does not provide the reader with specific direction, advice, or recommendations. You may wish to contact an appropriate professional for questions concerning your particular situation.