by Brette Sember
Your child is living in two separate homes now. But even though they are two distinct places, they are both parts of the same family. Because of this there should be some similarities between the homes. Children should have responsibilities at both houses, no matter how much time they spend there.
Why Children Need Responsibilities
Household responsibilities are important for children of all ages. Kids who have household responsibilities or chores feel like they belong and share ownership of the home. You want your child to have that feeling in both homes. Children who are given household responsibilities learn to rely on themselves. They learn that they can achieve goals and they also begin to be and feel self-sufficient.
Requiring responsibilities at each home sets up similar expectations for your child from both parents. Consistency is important for a child, especially a young child, and particularly after a divorce. Setting similar requirements at both homes sends the message to a child that although you are parenting in separate homes, you still have the same standards and do still parent together.
It's a good idea to talk to your ex about the responsibilities in your separate homes. Each house should have some kind of responsibilities for the child, even if they are as small as picking up toys after playing. The responsibilities in each home do not need to match each other, but they should require the same level of responsibility and understanding. You don't want your child to feel like one parent is a slave driver while the other offers a free pass. Discuss with your ex the types of jobs your child is capable of doing, given his age, maturity, homework load and extracurricular activities.
What to Do When Responsibilities Aren't Equal
A common scenario is that a child who lives primarily with one parent and has visitation time with the other often has chores at residential parent's house and no responsibilities at the other house. The residential parent may try to talk to other parent about the disparity, but the non-residential parent sometimes feel like he or she spends so little time with the child that he or she wants to avoid conflict and also just have fun when the child is there. This is understandable, but in the long run it sends the wrong message.
It can sometimes be difficult to get your ex to agree to discuss household responsibilities. If talking gets you nowhere, then you must focus on what happens inside your own house. Talk to your child about why you each have responsibilities there and what that means. Don't badmouth the other parent's policy and instead, concentrate on creating an air of cooperation and teamwork in your own home.
Brette McWhorter Sember is a retired family attorney and mediator and nationally known expert about divorce and parenting after divorce. She is the author of:
- The Divorce Organizer & Planner
- The Complete Divorce Handbook: A Practical Guide
- How to Parent with Your Ex: Working Together for Your Child's Best Interest
- No-Fight Divorce: Spend Less Money, Save Time, and Avoid Conflict Using Mediation.
Learn more about Brette on her web site.
Copyright © Brette McWhorter Sember. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.