Co-Parenting After A Divorce
My Own Personal Experience
My divorce was less than amicable to say the least. The year following our separation and throughout the divorce proceedings there was a ton of animosity, screaming matches, and fights about pretty much everything. To be completely honest in the beginning my children suffered more than I would like to admit. My ex husband and I tried to keep the kids out of it, but as the tension grew as it often does in a divorce my kids were exposed to lots of fights and both of their parents hurting. One day at the height of the divorce proceedings just before our first mediation I took an online parenting course that’s mandatory before a divorce can be finalized in our state. That course made me take a hard-cold look at myself as a parent and it made me realize my kids were suffering for petty stupid reasons. Here I was fighting against their father whom they loved and adored when I should be trying to work with him to care for our girls. I called him that very day and for the first time since our separation I made a conscious effort to put aside my own pain and talk to him only about the kids, and their best interest. It turns out he was on the same page and ready and willing to just focus on our kids. Things still aren’t perfect, but we now have a good relationship and our girls are thriving with two parents who focus on them instead of fighting with each other. I learned so much throughout this journey
Kids Deserve To Have A Healthy Relationship With Both Parents
First, kids deserve to have a healthy relationship with both parents. It’s easy to hate the ex after a separation but the worst and most detrimental thing you can do is try to severe the bond your child has with their other parent. Many parents make the all too common mistake of trying to use their kids as a weapon against the other parent or as a means of control. When your hurting its easy to want to hurt the other person but this is selfish and counterproductive. Keeping your child from their other parent hurts the child and creates resentment from the other parent. Using this as a means of control will never work in fact it will most likely have the opposite effect and damage the relationship you have with your little one. Now there are obviously cases where spending considerable amounts of time with dad or mom may not be in the best interest of the child. Things like drug addiction, or abuse may mean the other parent should have little or no visitation with the child. In extreme cases like these the best practice is putting the welfare of the child or children above all else. You may want to consult your attorney to figure out what legal steps to take.
Take A Parenting Course
Consider taking a parenting course. I can tell you from experience this was by far the best thing I did during my divorce. This is expert advice that can be invaluable and if you put it into practice it can mean the difference between a child who suffers in a broken home or thrives. Look around there are several online courses that you can take on your own schedule, and that are geared directly toward parenting after divorce. Most of these courses are fairly cheap yet the information they provide is valuable. There’s also tons of books and information available. Do your research investing a little time now will benefit you and your little on for years to come. I also suggest asking the other parent to do the same so you can both be on the same page. If they are hesitant remember you can’t force just do it for yourself and maybe share important pieces of information with them that directly relate to your particular set of circumstances. Try doing this in a non-threatening way. Send via text or email rather than telling them this way they have a document to reference back to.
Keep The Kids Out Of Your Fights
Keep the kids out of your fights, this is so challenging sometimes emotions run high and calm conversations can escalate quickly. Plan ahead for this if you need to talk to your former spouse about a subject that might be touchy the best practice is to do it when the kids are not around. Plan these hard conversations out ahead of time and try a non-demanding non-demeaning approach. Exploding, yelling, screaming, or belittling your former spouse is only going to create a negative reaction and more tension. Like I stated above, try to set aside your own feelings and work toward getting along with this person for the sake of the kids. Keep in mind that the most important thing through all of this is the kids well being and every action you take has the potential to affect them. So, make those actions positive. Avoid discussing subjects like child support, distribution of assets, or any other possibly volatile topic to or in front of the kids. These topics should be discussed in private.
Work Together For The Good Of The Children
Present a United front for the kid’s sake. This maybe difficult especially in the beginning, but if at all possible try sitting down with the other parent and discuss the hard topics like where the kids are going to live, visitation of the non-custodial parent, and any other changes that are pertinent to the children. If you can come to a resolution with these topics the best course of action may be to sit down with the other parent in front of the kids and discuss the changes with them together. Give them a chance to ask questions and show them that you are both still committed to them. Allow them to see you working together as parents. Try to keep the other topics of your divorce separate from your parenting.
Minimize The Changes
Minimize the changes the kids have to adjust to as much as possible. Divorce is full of change for kids, it’s a whirlwind of emotions, adjustments, and a battle to try to find their place in the new family dynamic. The good news is divorce does not have to be a negative experience for a child. As crazy as it sounds kids can actually benefit through this process if done correctly. Often times parents are busy fighting and the home is filled with tension and animosity leading up to the separation. Therefore, the actual separation can be a welcome relief for kids as it puts an end to all of those negative experiences. Hopefully both parents begin to regain a sense of happiness and joy that they may have lost throughout the marriage and begin to focus heavily on the kids instead of their feelings toward each other. This process can take time however so a good practice to help relieve the adjusting pains for the interim is to try and keep the same or similar rules and routines for both homes. If bed time is 9pm and has always been 9pm keep it 9pm. Try to get on the same page with the other parent with regards to discipline routines, and schedules. Up until this point you have parented together, remember your roles and responsibilities as a parent have not changed only your relationship with each other.
Take Care Of Yourself
Finally, take care of yourself. Divorce is hard on everyone involved. Take time out to work through your own emotions and make yourself happy. Your kids will benefit most from a positive loving environment. This is only achievable if you’re at peace.