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Don't let divorce guilt affect your ability to be a good parent

Divorcing parents, no matter how committed they are to peacefully co-parenting their children, feel some amount of guilt over breaking apart the nuclear family that their children know. The parent with primary custody may feel guilt that their kids can't see the other parent every day and have to divide their time between two homes. The non-custodial parent feels guilty for not being around for the everyday moments of their children's lives.

However, guilt can cause parents to overcompensate in ways that aren't healthy for their children. Some parents become too lenient. They fail to set or enforce necessary boundaries for their kids. Non-custodial parents, in particular, fall into this trap. They have less time with their kids than they used to, and they don't want to spend it being a disciplinarian, even when it's warranted.

Other parents become overly strict. They may feel like they've lost control because they and their spouse couldn't make their marriage work, so they exert more control over their kids. Sometimes this manifests more when the kids are with the other parent. They try to tell the other parent what he or she can and cannot do, even regarding minor matters like toys or clothing.

A common manifestation of guilt is competition with the other parent. Parents try to outdo each other with gifts, outings to Broadway shows and competing to be what's widely known as the "Disneyland parent." This behavior can arise from a combination of guilt about your children and animosity towards your ex-spouse.

While kids may feel like they're benefiting when their parents are competing to be the favorite parent, in the long run, it's not what they need. All kids, whether their parents are together or not, need to feel safe and loved. Boundaries and consistency are necessary to a healthy upbringing. It's important for parents to agree on a basic set of expectations for their kids, regardless of which home they're in.

There are plenty of resources out there to help divorced parents -- including counseling, support groups, books and websites. Your New York family law attorney can guide you to these resources if you need help. If changes need to be made to your parenting plan to provide more consistency for your children, he or she can help you with that as well.

Source: Huffington Post, "The Effects Of Guilt-Driven Parenting After Divorce," Donna Mott, Sep. 06, 2016

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