The Exes: If You Think Babies Do Not Sense Divorce, Think Again
Positive behavior after a negative divorce is hard to come by, let alone if there are children and babies in the failed marriage.
It takes a mature parent to put animosity and heartbreak aside to allow the ex-partner in the same room with him or her and their children. If there is an infant in the picture, however, this is exactly what that person needs to do, provided that the ex is mentally balanced and not violent.
Consistent physical custody is especially important for an infant, which means one or the other parent but usually the mother will have the baby with her at all times, at least until the baby is two to three years old. If the custody of the baby is shared, for the welfare of the baby, one of the partners has to be able to give up on the baby's sleeping over in his house, because babies who are made to spend time in two different homes with two different parents will have problems bonding with their parents or with anyone else.
According to a California study, infants and babies who had overnight visits in two different homes with two different parents developed attachment problems in comparison with the infants and babies who saw their fathers during daytime visits. The babies who went back and forth between two parents were distrustful of everyone and could not handle the separations and meeting new people very well, because especially during the first year of life, a baby needs to attach to one primary parent figure and does not need the separation anxiety that comes from being toted from one home to another.
Although no two babies are alike, their needs for affection, consistency, and physical care are the same. To a new-born, mother and father are security; mother and father are the people the baby learns to rely on to be always there for him. For that feeling of security to develop properly, a baby needs constancy. Since in its essence divorce harms that constancy, parents need to put their differences aside and step in to make life as easy as possible for their baby; therefore, it is highly advisable for the divorced parents to allow the baby to stay with only one of them while the other parent pays daytime visits frequently.
A baby's sensory tools are very sharp, especially when he is too little to learn communication through words. He senses the changes in his surroundings and the negative or positive feelings exchanged inside a room.
The divorced parents, no matter what their differences, need to be able to talk to each other in a civilized manner making their baby's needs their priority. If one of the parents has an emotion control problem, then the other parent can see the baby in a more neutral environment such as in a friend's house or a public place like a park or a diner with the baby's primary parent present, since people are less likely to act out in a public place.
Important tips for divorced parents during visitation in their baby's first year of life:
1. Stick to the business of parenting, even if you are suffering or you feel angry or you wish to act upon an ulterior motive like encouraging your ex to come back. Do not ever attempt to use the visitation time with the baby for a possible reconciliation.
2. Do not bring up past grievances; if you need to discuss any potentially explosive issues, for example child support, do it in a different time and place when the baby and the other children are not present.
3. Be honest and straightforward with your ex and stick to the issue at hand like teething or formula change. Especially when the baby and other children are there, don’t let any one issue lead you to a negative encounter. Your positive behavior encourages your ex to act the same way.
4. Be ready to compromise. If the visitation time and place needs a change, try to accommodate your ex.
5. Respect each other. By respecting each other, you are also teaching respect to your baby and other children if you have them
6. If you can, try to develop empathy for your ex. Try to imagine his or her difficulties.
7. If you have other children with the ex, stay away from giving them the finer details of your relationship with the ex. If the other children act on negative knowledge, that will affect the baby.
8. Do not feel guilty about the divorce and do not base your actions upon guilt feelings. If it was at all possible, you would make your marriage work; plus, children with happily divorced parents are better off than those children in an unhappy marriage.
9. If your ex has a new partner, try to establish a friendly relationship. The new partner will have an important role in your children's lives.
10. Do not worry too much for things you cannot control. Babies are sturdy. Even if they are stressed earlier in life, they will develop well when their circumstances are improved.
This article was posted on August 28, 2006
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