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Helping your child deal with different parenting and lifestyles

On Behalf of | Feb 20, 2024 | FAMILY LAW - Child Custody |

When parents separate, their children often find themselves dealing with two very different parenting styles as well as lifestyles. One person’s parenting style may have dominated when they were together. Sometimes, when parents become single, their lifestyles — and thus their parenting styles – change.

Often, there are differences in the following:

  • Rules: One parent is more likely to have more rules and stricter than the other.
  • Culture: One parent may lean into their culture more after their marriage ends.
  • Expectations around homework: One parent may have a “homework first” rule while the other is more willing to let it slide, especially if they don’t see their child as much as they’d like. 
  • Diet: One parent may have been the cook in the family, while the other now relies on food delivery services or take-out.

You don’t need to have identical lifestyles or expectations for your child across both homes. Kids are adaptable. They can learn quickly how things work in each parent’s home. The more important thing is that you’re consistent within your own home. It’s best when parents can work out some basic rules and expectations for their child across both homes and codify those in the parenting plan.

Learning what to let go

If your co-parent isn’t doing anything that’s detrimental to your child, it’s typically better to focus on what’s important. For example, finding out that your child eats fast food at every meal when they’re with their other parent is a lot different than learning that they’ll occasionally get to have pizza.

If they ask why you won’t let them do something their other parent will (or vice versa), just say that the two of you do things differently in your homes and that’s okay. Don’t use this as a chance to criticize your co-parent or say that your way is “best” or “right.” If both parents emphasize that their child should do what their other parent asks when they’re with them (assuming, of course, it’s not harmful), and that they both love their child, that child will learn to accept the differences.

As noted, determining what you want to codify in your parenting plan as soon as possible, even if you still have a ways to go before finalizing your divorce can help make things easier for everyone. With sound legal guidance, you can craft a parenting plan that works during your separation and modify it as needed later.