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Problems of the Custodial Parent in Divorce

Problems of the Custodial Parent in Divorce

By J. Bailey Molineux, Ph.D.

Divorce is usually stressful for everyone involved: parents, children and grandparents. It's a time of loss, mourning and readjustment. But each person has a unique set of problems in the divorce adjustment process.

The parent who has custody of the children - Mom in the vast majority of cases has her unique problems with which she must contend as she struggles to raise her children alone. The more she is aware of these problems, beforehand, the better she will be prepared to handle them.

Sole responsibility for the children. In contrast to her married life, Mom now has sole responsibility for raising the children. All decisions regarding their lives must be made entirely by her. Their safety and welfare may depend upon decisions she makes about them by herself.

In addition, she usually has a major responsibility to provide for the children. Child support payments are rarely enough to meet the bills of family living in today's inflationary world, so often she has to get a job if she doesn't already have one. A new job, however, may require more education or training at a time when her standard of living has already been reduced.

Too many responsibilities. In addition to carrying decision-making responsibility for her children and insuring their economic welfare, the divorced mother also has practical responsibilities. Besides possibly holding down a full time job, she still has to cook, clean, wash and iron for the children, as well as chauffeur them to school, the baby-sitter's, their friend's and the doctor's office. She could literally have two full time occupations which would leave her little time or energy for herself'.

Discipline. Discipline usually becomes more difficult for the custodial parent for a number of reasons. She is alone in her efforts to discipline the children with no one to back her up or support her. She is often so upset by the divorce that her ability to be an effective disciplinarian may be temporarily weakened. And her children may be more difficult to discipline because of their own emotional turmoil about the divorce.

Social limitations. Research shows that married friends tend to pull away from divorcing friends, both custodial and non-custodial. They may feel their own marriage to be threatened by the divorce of a friend, be unsure how to respond or not want to feel they have to take sides.

But the custodial parent faces other problems that may restrict her social life. Unlike a man, she may feel she can't be too aggressive in pursuing a relationship with members of the other sex. She may also feel, but not want to admit, that her children are a barrier to a more active social life, or may feel guilty every time she leaves them for a date.

Visitation problems. One especially annoying problem for the custodial parent is that she is usually more of the disciplinarian, while the visiting parent has more fun with the children but fewer responsibilities. As a result, he may be viewed as the "good guy" by the children, while she is more of the "meanie." This contrast can be especially apparent immediately after a visit with the non­-custodial parent. Mom may find her children especially restless, depressed, or obstinate at this time.

Lest it seem like the custodial parent has all the problems in a divorce, the visiting parent as his unique problems also which are often opposite in nature from those of the divorced other but equally distressing.


About the Author: J. Bailey Molineux, a psychologist with Adult and Child Counseling, has incorporated many of his articles in a book, Loving Isn't Easy, Isbn 1587410419, sold through bookstores everywhere or available directly from Selfhelpbooks.com. Copyright 2002, J. Bailey Molineux and Selfhelpbooks.com, all rights reserved. This article may be reprinted but must include authors copyright and website hyperlinks.

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