If you have children and are divorcing, your focus should be on effectively co-parenting after divorce.
Below are five suggestions that will make co-parenting easier and, in the long-run, put your children in a position of suffering fewer negative consequences of your divorce.
What Should You Do when Co-Parenting After Divorce?
Choose Shared Custody
I realize that not all situations are optimal for shared or 50/50 custody, but, if there are two loving and involved parents concerned the best thing you can do for your children is give them equal time with each parent.
Your main priority during and after your divorce should be to effectively co-parent your children. Beginning the divorce process by being willing to share your child with each other, in spite of any negative feelings you have, is a good place to start. Divorce will end your marriage; it won’t end your role as a parent, and let’s face it: if you have children you will be forever connected to each other. You might as well put your best foot forward when dealing with that lifelong situation.
Put Parenting First
Divorce does not end your responsibility to care for your child’s financial and emotional needs. The emotional or financial stress you are experiencing does not come before putting your children’s needs first.
Don’t fall prey to the belief that children are resilient and once you deal with the divorce process you can deal with your child’s issues. Be present and able to do what you need to do to make sure their life runs smoothly during and after your divorce. Keep their schedule as normal as possible. Don’t uproot them from school, friends, or family. If you’ve moved out of the marital home, talk to your children daily and see them several times a week.
You may have needs but those needs will never trump the need your child has to feel secure.
Don’t Put Your Children in the Middle
A concerned and loving parent does everything within their power to keep divorce from hurting their children. These parents do not expect their child to share their anger or resentment toward the other parent.
Your child will take his/her cues from you. If you treat the other parent with respect and civility it frees your child up to feel safe loving you both. If you disrespect the other parent or share anger at the other parent with your child, that puts the child in a position of feeling as if they have to choose sides.
Don’t share private information about the divorce with your child. Listen to your child when they express their feelings and validate, not dismiss, those feelings. Don’t use your child as a messenger between his/her parents. Allow your child to be a child by remaining the mature, adult parent during and after your divorce.
Don’t Try to Turn Your Child Against the Other Parent
Cutting a child off from the other parent causes that child undue emotional pain and stress. You may not like the other parent, you may not believe the other parent capable of parenting, but it is not your place to decide whether the other parent has a right to parent their child.
Parental Alienation is the willful withholding of a child from the other parent. Some parents use their children as a weapon against the other parent if they feel they have been wronged. What better way to hurt someone than to restrict their ability to spend time with and openly love their child?
The problem with parental alienation is it backfires. If you, as a parent, engage in alienating a child from a loving, caring parent, that child will one day realize they were used by you, and then you will find yourself the focus of that child’s anger. In other words, you aren’t hurting the other parent when you attempt to alienate their child; you are hurting yourself and endangering your future relationship with your child.
If, for some reason, shared parenting is not the situation for your children, be flexible when it comes to visitation with the non-custodial parent. Don’t hold your child or the other parent to a rigid “once-a-week-and-every-other-weekend” schedule.
If your child is involved in sports or after-school activities, allow the other parent to share the responsibility and pleasure of those activities with your child. If your ex calls and wants to take the child out for a burger or movie and it isn’t his “night,” let your child decide whether to go or not.
The key when co-parenting after divorce is to make time with the other parent child-focused, not parent-focused. In other words, if your child has a desire to spend time with the other parent, make your decisions based on the child’s needs and desires, not on your needs and desires.