Divorce isn’t pretty, even when it’s amicable. When you take your teen daughter and her feelings into consideration, your divorce isn’t just about you and your soon-to-be ex. It’s about your daughter, her feelings and emotions and her fear of the unknown. You might wonder whether the way you raised her before your divorce should change now that your family dynamic has changed. While you cannot know how she will react and whether your parenting style needs to change, you do need to know what is appropriate and what is not when raising your daughter during your divorce.
Discuss your daughter’s well-being with your ex as often as possible, advises Laura Markham, psychologist and mom who writes at Aha Parenting. Sharing your teen daughter ensures a place in each other’s lives, and discussing her well-being and how you can provide that for her as often as possible -- especially when you are angry with one another -- can help you to reaffirm that you must be on the same page for your daughter’s sake. Your parenting abilities cannot fall apart simply because you marriage fell apart.
Listen to your daughter when she talks to you, advises M. Gary Neuman, a licensed mental health counselor and divorce expert. Throughout the stages of your divorce, your daughter’s feelings will change. When she tries to talk to you about them, listen. She needs to feel heard, and she needs to feel important to maintain her self-confidence. For example, she might feel torn between her loyalty for you and for her dad and want to discuss it with you. No matter how angry you are with her father and how much you don’t want to talk about him, don't dismiss her or you'll risk your relationship.
Keep your negative feelings about your daughter’s father to yourself, advises Markham. The reasons behind your failed marriage are not her concern. It isn’t fair to her or either of you to say anything negative to your daughter about her other parent.
Refrain from asking your daughter to relay messages to your ex, according to Neuman. Your daughter is your daughter; she is not your friend, your therapist, your lawyer or your messenger, so don’t use her as one. For example, when you drop her off with her father this weekend stop yourself from telling her to tell him it would be nice if he could have you home on time this weekend, because that seems to be such a problem for him other weekends. If you need to discuss his tardiness in bringing her home, or anything else for that matter, discuss it with him.
Tips & Warnings
- Love your daughter. One of the most important things you can each do for your teenage daughter is to reassure her of your love as often as possible. You’re divorced; she’s not. Make it a point to reaffirm your love and commitment to being her parents. Be there for her. Listen to her. Love her.
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