The Ex Files
No matter how hard you work on household harmony within your own four walls, however, it's important that you do the same with ex-partners. Research shows that one of the primary sources of children's problems after a divorce is the inability of parents to keep their negative feelings about their ex (or their ex's new partner) to themselves. "Remember, children take their emotional cues from their parents," says Engel. "Negative comments about what goes on in that other household just makes it harder on your kids," she adds.
In a perfect world, the rules and values in each of your child's homes would be identical. In the real world, the most practical way of handling inevitable household differences is to choose what's most important to you and compromise when necessary. "Be the best parent you can be, and give your ex the benefit of the doubt when you can," says Engel. Of course, sometimes ex-partners are vested in keeping a fight going. Schultz, for instance, has found it tough to deal with the mother of her stepdaughters, who has not gotten past the bitterness of her divorce. "But I'm not giving up," she says. "I really think it's best for our kids if we can get along, so I just keep trying to be nice." Most important, adds Engel, keep your own home as peaceful and structured as possible, no matter how fierce a battle zone your ex tries to create.