Wait, what? Isn’t January 1st the time to make those grand plans to improve our life? Too often, people make New Year’s resolutions that are too broad and too overwhelming to succeed. This can be especially true with something as inherently complicated as divorce co-parenting.
If you truly want to have a better co-parenting relationship in 2021, don’t make a broad resolution to do so. Instead try to focus on small, actionable steps that you will follow through with during the year. Here are six tips to help you come up with a plan that will work.
6 Divorce Co-Parenting Tips For 2021
Identify Things You Can Control
Any change you want to achieve needs to be within an area that you can control. You can change yourself and your actions and behaviors — you can’t change another person. During this step, you can be as broad or specific as you want. For example: I want to be less reactive to my ex-spouse or I want to be on time for my parenting pick-ups.
Get as Specific as Possible
Once you identify what you’d like to change, you need to translate that change to goals that are specific as possible. Too often, we set goals that are too vague (e.g. get healthy) and when we can’t measure our success, we become dispirited. It’s important to have goals that allow you to track your progress. Let’s look at the examples above and make them more specific. If you want to be “less reactive” decide what that means to you. For example, “I want to stop sending angry text responses.” or “I want to send emails that stick to the point.” If you are late to most pick-ups and you want to be on time for parenting time, set a target goal such as: “80% of the time, I will be on-time”.
Understand the Obstacles to Your Goal
Before you can create a realistic plan, you need to know what might get in the way of achieving your goal. Do you respond to every text message as soon as you see it? Are you usually late because you underestimate your travel time? If you aren’t sure where you are getting tripped up, ask a therapist or trusted friend for some input.
Create a Plan
When it comes to divorce co-parenting, sometimes making a plan can make all the difference. Create a plan for achieving your goal. If you are highly reactive to texts, list three things you can do when you see a text (e.g. take a walk or call a friend before responding; respond without sending and then re-read in an hour; read the text, then do something grounding such as yoga or meditation to calm yourself). If you are chronically late, look at the upcoming parenting schedule and lighten your load on those days. You will feel more relaxed if you aren’t trying to cram in several errands on your way to pick-up.
Measure Your Progress
You can’t know how you are doing against a goal unless you measure your progress. Make a log of angry texts and your response (or non-response), or log your on-time and late pickups. If you monitor your performance, you can make notes about what goes well and what can be improved. This will allow you to see patterns that you hadn’t noticed before. Do you respond to angry texts late in the day because you are tired and stressed, but you are able to let them roll off your back when you are more relaxed in the morning? Do you make it on time for pickups on the weekend because you have more time but struggle to get out of work on time during the week?
Adjust Your Behavior
As you learn by monitoring your progress and noticing your patterns, adjust to make your behavior more in-line with your goal.
Instead of choosing a lofty goal, try choosing one behavior to target. You can start in January if that works for you, but you can also do this any time of the year. Sometimes small changes can have a big impact.