Once a divorce is finalized and the legal issues have been resolved, you must now deal with the reality of being two parents occupying two different homes. If your divorce proceedings were contentious, you may be facing some challenges knowing you will have to overcome feelings of anger, hurt, and frustration for the sake of your children. This is never easy, but for the sake of the children, this is the best option for everyone. Here are some helpful tips for making sure your co-parenting relationship remains stable.
Communication is the Key to Co-Parenting
While this may sound sensible and straightforward, we already know this is not always as easy as it sounds. The more challenging the divorce, the more contentious, the more significant the challenge. However, there are some things to keep in mind:
- You are the parents — it is up to both of you to act like responsible adults. Your children will be counting on both of you to make sure they are not caught in a disagreement between the two of you. Initially, you and your ex-spouse may need to sit down together and air out some grievances so you can avoid having them spill over to your interactions with your children.
- Your children need two parents — make sure you are not making unilateral big decisions on your own. Both parents should be making big decisions together. Schooling, religious, and medical decisions should be mutually agreed upon to avoid further tensions between the two of you.
- Avoid conversation turning to confrontation — as challenging as it may be, you should make every effort to avoid a conversation with your former spouse turn into a confrontation. For example, if your child returns from a scheduled visitation and one of their belongings was left at the other parent’s home, do not make a big deal of it. Let it go.
Communicating with a former spouse is never easy, particularly if you had issues communicating prior to your divorce. It will be important to have a civil relationship with your former partner to enable you to communicate effectively about important issues pertaining to your children.
Mutually Agree to Stay Focused on Your Children
Even when you and your former spouse have problems communicating, you do still have your children in common. If you can agree ahead of time to keep the focus on what is best for your children, you can overcome several challenges. Some ways to make this happen include:
- Agreeing to teamwork — whenever possible, you and your former spouse should attempt to develop a plan for times when you may have to interact with your child at the same time. Examples of this could be sports events your child is involved in, parent-teacher events at school, or other similar events.
- Agree to avoid demeaning each other — despite how you feel about your former spouse’s shortcomings, no good can come of expressing them to your children. Your child may resent you for doing so, and it will force further deterioration in the relationship and ability to communicate with your former spouse.
- Agree on child’s boundaries — living with two sets of rules confuses children. You and your spouse should develop a plan which works for both of you for setting bedtimes, rules pertaining to study time, television/screen time, etc. as much as possible. If you are both consistently enforcing the same rules, your children will have an easier time adapting to parents living apart.
None of these things will be easy but they will make coparenting much easier than if you are both working against each other. Overcoming your differences will get easier over time, and if you can remain focused on what is best for your child (or children) it will be even easier.
Making Visits Easier for Everyone
One of the most challenging things about coparenting is when the child leaves one home and goes to the other. This is stressful for both parents, and stressful for the child. There are a few things which can help make these transitions easier including:
- Dropping child off — rather than picking a child up from the other parent’s home, each parent should drop the child off. This helps avoid interrupting something which the child and the parent may be involved in.
- Be a bit flexible — do not get so tied into a schedule that you cannot be flexible. Unless there are pending plans which a visit to the other parent will interfere with if the child is running late, then do not get overly concerned about late drop offs (unless they become problematic, then discuss them with your coparent).
- Prepare your child — if you and your former spouse have a set schedule, help your child prepare for their visit. Helping with packing, reminding them a day or two before, and treating the visit to their parent as normally as possible can help your child adjust to the situation.
- Listen to your child — there may be times when a child balks at visiting their other parent. Find out why and discuss the issue with your former spouse. Do not just assume this is a passing issue, get to the root of the problem.
Nothing about splitting time between two parents feels normal to a child. The easier you can make the transitions for your child, the easier it will be for everyone involved.
Make Time for Self-Care
Part of raising a healthy child is having a healthy you. The stress associated with coparenting can cause you to ignore your own body’s signals that something is not right. While your children are visiting their other parent, you should make time to do things which help you relax. This can also help with the stress of having your children away from you for periods of time.
Be Prepared for Disagreements
Let’s face it, you and your former spouse are not always going to agree on everything when it comes to your children. However, each of you must do your best to avoid having disagreements in front of your children, particularly when it comes to issues which impact your child.
When coparenting issues start becoming problematic, it may become necessary to consider modifying the orders the court laid out. When you need legal advice about coparenting and what steps you can take to address your concerns, contact an experienced lawyer who is a Certified Specialist in Family Law, please call our San Diego office at 619-724-4148 or send us an email.