Kids need to know their parents are there to support and protect them no matter what’s going on in their lives. Divorce can be a traumatic experience for a child and can trigger a wide variety of emotions. Handling this life-altering event appropriately can decrease the likelihood of a long-term negative effect on your child’s well being.
Sometimes the Internet can provide a community for someone who is feeling alone and isolated. It can be a place for your child to find a group of peers experiencing the same stressors, decreasing their feelings of isolation.
The Internet is also a dangerous place for vulnerable people who are longing for attention. Kids who are struggling emotionally are more susceptible to the manipulation of online predators. Unlimited technology use, especially gaming for long periods of time, can lead to an unhealthy escape from reality, and avoidance of emotions.
During this stressful time, it’s important to not only focus on your own needs but also the needs of your child. Consistent boundaries, rules and expectations provide the love, support and structure your child needs to feel safe and protected throughout the divorce. Although it can be difficult, open communicate with their other parent is key in providing consistent support and structure.
Some Things to Consider
Model good behavior
Your child shouldn’t be mean or pick on people in person or via social media, and you shouldn’t either. Social media is a public forum, it’s not appropriate to post or sub tweet about your ex-spouse. (sub tweet: passive aggressively posting or tweeting about another person without naming or mentioning them) Your child will see it if you do it.
Keep rules consistent
Curfew, technology and school expectations should remain the same. It’s confusing and stressful for a child if expectations are different from one home to another. Think about your job, how would it feel if one half of the week you had a supervisor who had different expectations than the supervisor the other half? What if those expectations changed daily or midway through the day? Put your anger and sadness aside, and brainstorm with your child and ex-spouse to come up with rules that will work in both homes, and then make sure you are being consistent.
Be a united front
This can be hard enough to maintain when parents are together in the same house. Kids are master manipulators who study their parents to see what they can get away with. Decisions about when they can have a device and what type of apps are allowed on the device should be a joint decision. If they are grounded for breaking technology rules at one home, they should also be grounded at the other home. Have the same expectations at both homes.
Don’t infer tone in texts
A person’s tone in texts is often misconstrued. Be cautious about communicating with your ex-spouse via test if you recognize misunderstandings are occurring. Basic information can be easily communicated via text, but sometimes a phone call will improve the lines of communication. If the only option is to communicate via text or email, when feeling triggered, remind yourself you are inferring tone to the message and could be making an incorrect assumption.
Don’t use technology as a baby-sitter
This is a stressful time for everyone. It’s easy to use technology as an escape from dealing with difficult emotions. Practice self-care and find ways to work through your feelings of grief and loss instead of escaping them. Most importantly, don’t let technology be your babysitter when you’re having a bad day. Plan an activity to do with your children and make new memories.
Have communication guidelines
Make arrangements that are in the best interest of your child and allow them to contact their other parent whenever they want. If necessary, provide a device for them to do so, even if there are only a limited number of people on their contact list or it only allows calls. When they aren’t with you, it should be okay to call and check on them, however, be respectful of the other parent’s co-parenting time. If they aren’t supposed to be on the device during meals or after bedtime don’t break the rules.
Remember, being on the same page and providing structure could ultimately protect your child from long-term legal and emotional problems. Technology and pornography addiction, and legal consequences from sexting are real-life consequences of unlimited technology use. Being the parent who doesn’t consistently follow rules and maintain structure can negatively impact your child’s life.
Divorce is hard on everyone. Sometimes there are moments of weakness, lapses in judgement or your best self isn’t in the driver’s seat. Remember, there is no such thing as the perfect parent and the only thing you have control over is yourself. Sometimes the only thing you can do is be the stabilizing influence and make sure you are providing a consistent, loving and supportive environment.
Cheryl Kosmerl, MSW, LCSW
I'm a clinical social worker and child advocate. After more than 20 years of working with children and adolescents in a variety of settings I created Sexting Solutions, a successful program designed to teach kids to respect themselves and others, show empathy and stop abuse. Intended as an alternative to legal consequences for kids who were caught sexting, it focuses on building skills that develop a solid foundation for healthier adolescent years and beyond. Connect with me on LinkedIn by clicking the icon directly below.