3 Tips For Raising An Incredible Child, Even If Your Ex Sucks

Being a single parent with an ex who isn’t a great parent is the worst.

Last updated on Apr 15, 2024

Mother and daughter spending quality time together, gardening Jonathan Borba | Pexels

Kids need love, emotional support, consistent discipline, and structure to thrive. Yet, when you divorce, your ability to meet all of your child’s needs becomes impossible — and not because of all the turmoil.

The real reason why you will never be able to meet all of your kid’s needs is because your ex has your child part of the time. And it’s your ex’s job to meet your child’s needs when they have your kid with them.


If your ex sucks from your perspective, it’s still their responsibility to care for your child when they are together. Of course, if your child suffers neglect or abuse when your ex is caring for them, then you need to step in immediately. But thankfully, that’s not the norm.

When you can’t be 100% sure of what’s happening when your ex has your child, it’s easy to fall prey to fears your divorce will destroy your kid. You have the power to raise an incredible child despite what your ex does when your child is with them.

RELATED: 7 Brutal Truths Every Happily Divorced Person Knows

Here are 3 tips for raising an incredible child, even if your ex sucks:

1. Take care of yourself

When your child is with you, you’re it. You are the one who is there to meet their needs, so you need to be at your best. The only way you can do that is to take care of yourself.


Divorce upsets your life and your finances. This upset puts a strain on you. Getting a handle on your finances and living situation so you can feel more safe and secure will go a long way toward caring for yourself (and your child). But you also need to heal emotionally from your divorce as quickly and completely as you can.

By doing so, you’ll minimize distraction, stress, fatigue, and emotional turmoil, which all means you’ll be capable of being fully present for your child instead of going through the motions. The big upside is the better you feel and the more present you can be with your child, the less likely they have behavioral problems as a result of the divorce.

Caring for yourself also means you’ll avoid feeling guilty and obsessing.

There’s no reason to feel guilty for your kid having two homes — even if the home you provide is more modest than the home your ex provides. Feeling guilty diminishes your ability to parent and opens up the possibility your child will manipulate you into doing what they want instead of what you know is best.


There’s also no reason to obsess over things you can’t control.



You can’t control the weather, and you can’t control what your ex does. Allow yourself to disconnect from their behavior and not get drawn into the drama. When you disconnect and truly release the things you can’t control, you’ll experience an incredible sense of freedom and have more energy for dealing with the things you can control, including doing your part in raising an amazing kid.

RELATED: 8 Brutal Signs You Hate Your Ex More Than You Love Your Kids


2. Get support

Raising a child is almost impossible to do all on your own. It does take a village. So don’t try to do it all on your own.

Lean on others for support. Find other single parents you can count on and be there for them, too. Ask your family for their help. Find helping professionals when you need them. You deserve to surround yourself with help and guidance so you can be a great parent.

One of the traps many single parents fall into is leaning on their child for support. This is a horrible situation to put your child in. Your child needs the freedom to be a child — no matter how mature they seem. Sharing your adult concerns about your life or your ex with your kid (even if they are teenagers) is never appropriate.

3. Be the best parent you can be

There are so many things that go into being a great parent, regardless of your marital status. Parenting is a big responsibility! You might be tempted to slide on things now that you wouldn’t have dreamed of sliding on when you were married. This could be because you have a sense of guilt about not raising your kid in an intact family.


Being a single parent adds a bit of a twist to the whole parenting thing.

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mother reading to childPhoto: Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock

Here are a few reminders of what being "the best parent you can be" means.

1. Encourage your child to behave well

You can do this by setting a good example, creating clear rules, being consistent with your expectations and actions, providing appropriate discipline (remember to choose your battles), and praising your child when they behave well.


2. Focus on your child

Spend time alone with them and make the most of everyday moments. Be genuinely interested in their lives and what’s important to them. Paying positive attention to them will help them to cope with all the changes they’re experiencing, and when they’re coping well, you’ve got another opportunity to praise them. If you have more than one child, be sure you spend alone time with each of them (as age allows).

Remember you are the boss in your home, and don’t allow anyone else to undermine your authority. This includes your child who might attempt to guilt you into doing things like their other parent does.

3. Avoid all negativity about their other parent.

Your child knows they are like you in some ways and just like your ex in others. If you are negative about the other parent, they hear your negativity as an indictment of them too. You’ll also need to send positive images about gender. Your child deserves to know gender has zero bearing on how an individual chooses to behave.




Being a parent is challenging. Being a single parent is more challenging. And being a single parent with an ex who isn’t a great parent is the worst. However, by using these tips every single day, you’ll be able to meet your child’s needs when they’re with you and extend your influence into their life when they’re not.

By providing love, emotional support, consistent discipline, and structure, your child will thrive and be incredible — no matter how bad you think their other parent is.

RELATED: How Parents Who Hate Each Other Can Peacefully Co-Parent Together


Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce and life coach. Her writing on marriage, divorce, and co-parenting has appeared on MSN, Yahoo, Psych Central, Huffington Post, Prevention, and The Good Men Project, among others.