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Help Your Children Adjust to Different Rules in Two Homes

Children who are able to feel connected to both parents after the divorce will adjust better to the changes in their lives. While mom and dad struggle to move in different directions, children want to maintain their sense of a family unit. Follow these easy tips to help your children adjust to life in two homes.

You and your ex probably have different rules. This is only a problem if you choose to make it a problem.

While it may seem like your ex is trying to make you look like the bad parent by letting the kids stay up later or allowing them to play video games any time they want (whether homework is done or not), your children simply need to know the rules. They can understand there are different rules in each household.

If you handle it with confidence and understanding, your children will accept your rules without problems.

Here's the scenario:

It's 9:00. Time for bed. You remind your ten year old to brush his teeth before bed.

He looks at you. "I want to watch this show."

You tell him, "You know that 9:00 is bedtime. Now, brush your teeth and get ready for bed."

"Dad lets me stay up as late as I want. You're being mean."

Here is where you need to stop. How you respond can make a big difference in your relationship with your child.

Take a deep breath and think about what is happening here before you speak. You just heard your child call you a meany because your ex lets him do things you don't approve of. If you speak before you think, you may create a problem.

Things to think about before you react:

  • Does he really think that you are a meany? Well, if you start yelling or saying something bad about his father, you will be proving that you are a meany. If, however, you remain calm, you will not be a meany.
  • Does he really want to stay up to watch the show or is he just testing you? It could be either. It could be both. If you remain cool, you will have a chance to determine if there is a good reason for him wanting to watch the show.

Consider responding like this:

"You have school tomorrow and you know bedtime is 9:00. I don't know what your father's rules are, but you need to follow them at his house. And, you need to follow my rules in this house. If there is a good reason for wanting to watch that show, please tell me and I will consider it. Otherwise, bedtime is 9:00."

  • By remaining calm, you have gained more respect from your ten year old.
  • By telling him that he must follow his father's rules as well as your rules, you have let him know that he can't play one against the other.
  • You have also refrained from belittling his father's rules. If you belittle his father, expect resistance.
  • By offering to consider it, you show that you are not just pushing him around because you can, and if there is a good reason, you should certainly consider letting him stay up just this once.

If you get angry or belittle your ex's rules, you only create a problem. Your children see a divided front as a way to play parents against each other and allow themselves more freedom.

Remember, rules don't have to be the same in each household. Your children will adjust just fine if you acknowledge the fact that rules are different and it is their job to follow the rules in your home.




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