Friends and Parenting Time
Friendships are an important part of life for kids, but making time for friends can become complicated when your child has divorced parents. Striking a balance between family and friends is difficult but possible.
Let your child know that you respect his or her friendships. Welcome friends into your home, within reason. Children need to spend time with friends out of school and if you stand in the way, you’ll face a lot of resentment which will likely get worse as your child gets older. Talk about friends with your child and make it clear that seeing them is something you want your child to do. View friends as a wonderful part of your child’s life, and not as something that takes time away from you.
If you and your ex alternate weekends, it can be hard to give up a whole afternoon to a play date – whether at your home or at the friend’s home. But it is possible to have quality time with your child while allowing him play dates. Make it a rule that play dates are fine, say, on Saturdays from noon to four, or any other day and time that is convenient for you. Also make it clear that there must be time during the weekend for family and that while a sleepover once in a while is fine, every weekend is a bit much.
Discuss Plans with Your Ex
You and your ex should talk about how important it is to your child to see friends. Your child may want to invite friends over for play dates or sleepovers at the non-custodial parent’s house. Kids like to have their friends see both of their homes and parents. Again, the non-custodial parent should set boundaries and schedule things so that there is adequate family time, but also room for friends.
Prepare for Occasions
Expect that your child will be invited to birthday parties and other events, and that these may not fit easily into your parenting plan. You’ll need to weigh each invitation and talk to your child about them. Most of the time, kids will want to go, but sometimes they don’t, so it’s always best to ask. Try to make it possible for your child to attend parties he is interested in. Your child is sure to miserable if she is the only one in the class who couldn’t go to the pool party. You and your ex may want to have an arrangement that whichever parent is scheduled for the time of a party is the one to decide if the child is going and to provide transportation.
I have been thinking of children of divorce recently, after watching the kids on Mad Men, Season 4, and especially the daughter, weathering the stress between her parents. Good of you to point out the benefit of friends in such situations. On this show, the mother has a personal grudge against her daughter’s friend and actually decides to move away to remove that friend from her daughter’s circle. A study of what not to do.
I’ve never seen that show, but have heard it is good.
Seems like having a plan in place and setting priorities as you’ve suggested is a great way to handle it.
And yeah, those scenes with the Draper kids on Mad Men, especially the girl, are really difficult to watch. The way Betty handles the kids seems downright abusive sometimes. Don almost seems like a better father since getting divorced than before. At least he spends quality time with the kids now, which he didn’t do much of while he and Betty were married.
I can certainly see the parallels to Mad Men. My parents did not divorce but I do remember how disappointing it was to miss a birthday party or sleepover because of a family commitment like a trip or other event.
These are great tips. It would be so hard to balance parent time and friend time in a shared custody situation.
Good advice. Something to keep in mind is perspective. Even kids in non-divorced families can’t attened everything so stop blaming the divorce and deal with the reality of there only being so many hours in the day. Balance is sadly lacking in so many kids lives from what I see as a teacher and family time (where we learn how to act as humans) seems to be one of the first things to bite the dust. BTW my parents were divorced too. I choose to be me rather than labelled by the actions of others 🙂
Very good point. I agree there needs to be more family time and less scheduled activity time for some kids who are overextended.