Setting boundaries and expectations after divorce

Parents may feel like their lives are spinning a little bit out of control at times as they adjust to their post-divorce lives. Nevertheless, it is crucial to the ongoing health of the family to remain consistent with your behavior as well as expectations towards your children.

Children are also going through an adjustment process. They might internalize guilt for decisions outside their control, and depending on where they are in their development; they may not have the processing capability to tell you what they think or how they feel. As a result, their behavior may be a better judge of how they are handling the change in their family.

Parents may see uncharacteristic or even aggressive behavior at home or get reports of it from school. Addressing this will take a deft hand that balances understanding with accountability.

Consistency is key

Children will often need you to have the same rules and expectations they have come to know. Amid familial changes, the benefits of consistency might include:

  • Security – Your kids know what your expectations are.
  • Stress reduction – Developmentally, young children lack rationality. Consistency can alleviate fear.
  • Learning boundaries – Maintaining routines can help children understand the importance of self-discipline. Kids can learn to expect consequences for not following your rules.

Should you discipline your children?

There are context and exceptions to consider, but there may still need to be some types of consequences. Ideally, a parent can use these as teaching moments or times to have a conversation about why the behavior is happening and why consequences are deemed necessary.

No matter how in-sync the parents are, behavioral consequences will vary between homes just as they did when parents were married. Still, you might consider talking with your ex to determine behavioral guidelines and consequences you agree are appropriate for your children whether it is curfew, screen time, grades or something else. If the two of you cannot reach an agreement, focus on remaining as consistent as possible within your home while also being open to shifting the rules to facilitate better results.

Holding the parent accountable

If there are concerns about the other parent’s handling of their role as a single parent that cannot be resolved through meaningful conversation, it may be necessary to take action. Call 911 if the children are in immediate danger. It may also be necessary to revisit the parenting plan and custody arrangement with the help of an experienced family law attorney.

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