#5.9 Two Households, Two Sets of Rules

on Thu Mar 23 2023 16:33:54 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time)

with Darren W Pulsipher, Paige Pulsipher,

Let's start with a frequently asked question in divorced households: When my child goes to their dad’s house, he has different rules. When they come home, they think they can do whatever they want. I am tired of the battle. How can I help them adjust to the different house rules?



Let's start with a frequently asked question in divorced households: 

When my child goes to their dad’s house, he has different rules. When they come home, they think they can do whatever they want.  I am tired of the battle. How can I help them adjust to the different house rules? 
This is a brilliantly asked question about a common problem in divorced households. The question is not, “How can I get my ex to parent like me or to agree with me?” By the way, if you ask your ex to do this, they will most likely NOT just because it's you asking. But the question is, “How can I help my child adjust between the two homes?” Brilliant. This is not focusing on your ex, which you have no control over; this is focusing on your child.
The answer is complicated… Managing the different rules, expectations, and personalities is challenging for the entire family. This can be highly emotional, and there’s likely to be some conflict as you figure out what works best for you, your child, and her father.  But you can help your child understand and respect the different expectations of each parent without battles while still enjoying the time she spends with both of you.
The article we are referencing for this topic talks about perspective and how it starts with YOU. 
Think about your attitude and how you are responding to this situation. If you— understandably—feel angry or stressed, your child will likely feel this way, too. Your words, tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language all communicate how you feel.
Try to take the perspective of your child’s father {or mother). For example, like other divorced fathers, he may try to make up for the divorce by letting her do whatever she wants, so there is little conflict while they are together or by buying gifts to compensate for the loss. If you understand your child’s father’s motives, it may make this situation more manageable.
Whether or not you and your child’s father can work on this together, the task for you is to help your child—as you put it—“adjust between the different house rules.”
• Ask your child questions encouraging a back-and-forth conversation, not just a yes or no answer. Ask: “How does it feel to have different rules at your dad’s and my house?” The more your child talks about her feelings, the better she can understand and respond to other people’s points of view.
• Set boundaries about the rules. Although your child may like one set of rules better than the other, it’s best to be direct about the fact that the rules are different, and it is her responsibility to follow both sets of rules.
• Consistency and Follow Through. Keep your rules consistent, and follow through with the consequences you have decided on. Your child depends on you to stay reliable even if things feel unstable.
• Focus on the Positive. If you focus on the negative or get into battles, try reinforcing positive actions by commenting on them, like: “It was so helpful that you threw the trash into the wastebasket!”
• Assess Yourself. If you are upset about your child’s not following your rules, ask yourself what you expect of her and of yourself. Step back and look at your perspective. Are your expectations realistic? For example, maybe your child can’t finish all her homework at her father’s house. See if you can reach a compromise that works for all of you.

Make a plan together:
 This is the most critical strategy to use. When you and your child engage in a problem-solving process together, you help her learn to gain Executive Function skills.
Executive Functions are the skills we use to manage our thoughts, feelings, and behavior to achieve goals. Studies have found that when children develop Executive Function skills, they are more likely to thrive now and in the future.
Determine the problem. Explain to her that you often battle each other and want to devise better management methods.
• Talk with her about what’s most challenging for her transitioning from one home to another and from one set of rules to another. Please write down the issues she faces without any judgment.
Encourage her to think of ways she might solve these problems.
• Brainstorm as many ways as you can come up with to solve these problems. Again, write them down without judgment.
Evaluate the solutions. Here, you ask your child to take her and others’ perspectives.
• Ask your daughter what will and won’t work for each suggested solution. Have her consider whether it can work for her, you, and her father.
Create a strategy to try out to make things better.
• Decide together which strategy or strategies you will experiment with. Set a time to get back together to discuss how it works.
Evaluate how the solution or solutions are working after some time has passed.
• When you get together to talk about what is working and what isn’t, make sure that you consider each solution from the perspectives of all involved.
When your child takes some responsibility for solving the problems she faces, she is more likely to follow through on the solutions than if she’s told what to do. In effect, you are giving her a skill for life!

Lemonade moment of the week: 
Redoing the laundry room. Frustrating but slowly getting done.

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Podcast Transcript