A divorce, no matter how amicable, is a tectonic shift in your family life. The underlying structure of the day-to-day has been altered, and even little things will change. Amidst all this, however, is one thing you do not want to see impacted: the well-being of your children.
While co-parenting after a separation comes with challenges, it is certainly not impossible. Here are five strategies to help you and your former spouse be effective, loving co-parents for your kids.
Maintain a boundary between the divorce and the children
This is one of the most important pieces of advice. There will be times when you and your ex disagree and things get tense – but keep this conflict between you two. Don’t let it reach the children.
This applies to the legal pieces of a divorce as well, where you may want to offer big-picture information if necessary, but not divulge all the little details. Especially if it might be about one spouse’s misdeeds.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Being able to effectively communicate with your former spouse can make all the difference. The logistical elements of your new life will require fully understanding the schedule and your role within it, while also maintaining some flexibility. Some suggestions for effective communication include:
- Approaching it like a business partnership
- Making specific requests rather than statements that might be misinterpreted
- Keeping the conversation about the kids and what they need
- Listening as much as you speak, and acknowledging you understand their point-of-view
- Remaining calm – or stepping away if you need a moment to relax
Remember it’s not a competition
As the adult, you set the tone. Be supportive of the time your children get with their other parent. Celebrate it, be excited for them. Your children having a good time with their other parent does not preclude them from having fun with you as well.
Similarly, don’t say bad things about your ex in front of the children, even if done partly in jest. And absolutely do not leverage your children to send messages to your ex. If you need to communicate something to them, do it directly.
Establish – then respect – the rules
If both parents know and understand the rules, it is much easier for each to meet expectations. The key, however, is adhering to those guidelines. If both parents agree to do things a certain way, then one reneges, it can cause tension. If you think something about the arrangement needs to change, discuss it openly and honestly before taking action.
Focus on quality over quantity
You will almost certainly want to spend more time with your children. That’s OK – it’s natural. When you do have time with them, focus on making the most of the moment. This does not mean relying on one parent to be the disciplinarian while the other is the “fun” one. It’s important for children to experience both exciting moments and the regular old day-to-day with each.