Co-parenting Successfully: Helping Your Children Navigate Two Households
While divorce is a complicated, and often messy, process, few people are affected more than the children of the couple separating. What was likely a happy family once upon a time is now broken into two parts. Children can be left feeling confused, insecure, and struggling to make sense of how to live life with both mom and dad when they live in two entirely separate homes. As a parent, it’s your job to make this process easier for them, and while there is no one way to successfully parent your children after a divorce, there are some tips to make co-parenting easier once you and your spouse have chosen to dissolve your marriage.
Try some of these ideas to make life easier for your children (and for you) after the divorce.
Communication Is Key.
As much as possible, avoid using your children as a go-between for communication with your ex. We understand that divorce is sometimes ugly, but once the divorce is final, and the lawyers have gone, if you and your former spouse have yet to reach speaking terms you will need to find some kind of resolution. Using your children to pass messages back and forth, especially if they have a negative tone or derogatory connotation, can cause major damage to your children’s relationship with both you and your ex. Work hard to have open, civil communication with one another when it comes to your kids. They will be better off, and so will you.
Respect Their Time.
Inevitably, in most divorce cases your children’s time will end up being divided between you and your ex. When your kids are with their other parent, do your best to give them space and respect their time together. Don’t constantly call, text, or try to take their attention away from their father/mother when they are not with you. You wouldn’t appreciate it being done to you. If you need to get in touch with them for an important reason, keep the conversation short and to the point.
Most likely, one parent or the other will have the children during important events like birthdays, graduations, school parties, games, recitals, etc. For the sake of your children, try to partner with your ex in supporting them at these events together. Even if stepparents come into the picture at some point, nothing is like having your mom AND your dad cheering you on. An important part of this? Making sure your former spouse feels included by inviting them to the important moments, even if it isn’t “their” time with the children. It’s worth swallowing your own feelings and getting along with your ex for a day to see your kids smile at having both parents present in their lives.
When you can, be flexible about schedules. Like we mentioned above, important things (or even not so important things) can come up at times, and even though it might be your week with your kids, if there is a baseball game, a movie, or other activity or event that your children would enjoy with the other parent, consider being willing to share your time on occasion. That flexibility is mutually beneficial since there will likely be a time when YOU need to have the kids on a day that isn’t typically yours, and will want the understanding of your former spouse. Empathy and flexibility go a long way in successful co-parenting.
Your marriage might have ended, but you and your ex are still parents to your children together. As much as possible, make decisions regarding your kids with your ex, and let them have input. While your ex doesn’t need to have a say in what your weekend plans are with the kids, when it comes to things like changing doctors and medical decisions, school choices, playing sports or joining activities, etc., your ex will likely appreciate having some input since it affects them too! As your children get older, encourage them to communicate with their other parent about big decisions, and make sure you respect (and don’t criticize) advice given by the other parent. Keeping negativity about your ex to yourself is a huge part of co-parenting. If you need to vent, do so to a friend or confidant, not your kids.
We hope these tips help you as you begin your journey in co-parenting after a divorce, or as you seek to improve your current co-parenting relationship. Starting out on the journey to divorce or separation and don’t know where to go? Sessums Law Group is ready to help. We know you don’t expect divorce to come your way, but when it does, WE STAND FOR YOU!