Cooperating with your ex for the sake of your children can seem overwhelming in the early stages of the divorce. Try to put aside your relationship issues, your hurt and your anger towards one another and put your children’s needs first. Your marriage may be over but your family is not and your children need to know and feel that you will both continue to love them and be there for them despite the break up.
Peaceful, consistent, and purposeful communication between parents is essential to the success of co-parenting. You may think about your dealings as a business partnership where your “business” is your children’s well-being. Communicate as you would a colleague—with cordiality, respect, and neutrality.
As a parent, there are many steps that you can take to help your children cope with the effects of separation and divorce, with appropriate adjustments dependent on the children’ ages.
Aim for consistency
Children will adjust to two different households, but they need to know that they are living under the same set of expectations in both places. Rules don’t have to be exactly the same, but if both parents establish generally consistent guidelines, your children won’t have to bounce back and forth between two different disciplinary environments. Important rules like homework issues, curfews and off-limit activities should be followed in both households. Consistency avoids confusion for your children especially when they are younger.
Try to follow similar systems of consequences for broken rules, even if the infraction didn’t happen under your roof.
Keep similar schedules as best you can: regular meals, homework and bedtimes can go a long way toward helping your children adjust to both households.
Major decisions should be made by both of you, together. Being open, honest, and straightforward about important issues is crucial to your children’s well-being.
You may choose to designate one parent to be the primary contact with healthcare professionals but that parent is then responsible for keeping the other parent “in the loop.” If at all possible, attend important medical appointments together, so that you can both hear what the doctors have to say and ask any questions you may have.
School plays a major role in maintaining a stable environment for your kids, so be sure to let the schools know about any changes in your family’s situation. Both parents should be informed about class schedules, after-school activities and parent-teacher conferences. When you are both present at school and sports events, be civil with one another. The children will appreciate it and feel that you are both there to support them.
The cost of maintaining two separate households can strain your attempts to be effective co-parents. Set a realistic budget and keep accurate records for shared expenses. Be appreciative rather than resentful if your ex provides opportunities for your children that you cannot provide. The children are the ones who benefit!
Last but not least, whether your children are with you or with your ex-spouse, stay involved, call them on the phone, send postcards if you are traveling, continue to show interest in their lives, school, activities and friends.
Do your children feel secure in their relationships with both of you? If you and your spouse would like to talk about your roles as post-divorce parents, feel free to contact me.
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