As a single parent or co-parent, splitting your parenting time between you and your ex can be an incredibly stressful situation. This is especially true immediately following separation as it’s all new, uncharted territory. However, it does get easier over time once drop offs / pick ups become part of your routine. In the mean time, we have created our tips, gathered from single parents, on how to make the most of your parenting time.
Limit Screen Time During Meal Time
We know taking a cellphone out of the hand of a 14-year-old can be a dangerous task. However, there is increasing evidence to support the idea that screen time may be bad for families, especially when used during meal time. In fact, “teenagers who watch television or use electronic devices during family meals are more likely to experience problems ranging from poorer nutrition to impaired family communication” – The Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. We believe it’s important to use meal time as dedicated “family time”. We encourage parents to get their kids involved in the menu selection and preparation of each meal. This can mean up to an hours of uninterrupted time to discuss each other’s lives and bond over a delicious (and ideally nutritious) meal. Finally, as a single parent your number one role is to lead by example, if you’re on your phone it sends the message your kids aren’t the most important thing at the moment – and with limited time you spend together you want to make them your priority.
Single Parents Need Date Night Too
If you have more than one child you know it can be difficult to get one-on-one time with them. We encourage parents to plan a “date night” with each of their kids as often as possible within the mean of your living situation. By a “date night” we mean one-on-one quality time doing something you both really enjoy. This can be going to a movie, a concert, trying a new restaurant or going on a hike. This allows you to learn more about your child’s individual personality and provides the same for them. This will strengthen your bond and make you seem more like a human then always a “parent”. Logistically, this can be difficult to manage as a single parent. What we have seen work is if you have two kids, each co-parent gets a kid and you rotate who you take on your “date night”. Or, each parent takes a turn taking one of the kids and the other parent watches the others. It can be difficult to work around parenting time and multiple schedules, but we highly recommend trying to make one-on-one time a priority.
Understand Kids Boundaries with Parenting Time
Adjusting to divorce is a complex emotional journey for a person at any age. Kids need time to process their new family dynamic and understand how they fit in. It’s important to give them space, especially if they are at an age to communicate their need for space. You should, within reason, respect their boundaries. Of course, you are the parent and they need to spend time with you, especially if it’s part of a parenting plan, but understand where they are coming from and allow yourself to be lenient. As well, teenagers are busy. They are learning how to be independent and often prioritize their friends. It’s important to give them this freedom. They may occasionally request to miss parenting time to spend the weekend with their friends. It’s important that they be able to have a normal teenage experience even if it means less time with you. Allow yourself to see the big picture and be accommodating of your child’s social needs.
If you are going through a divorce and need help creating a parenting plan that works for you family, connect with us.