Divorce happens in families all the time, and children are thrust into a situation filled with confusion, anger, blame and two parents who have no idea how to co-parent as ex-spouses. As devastating as this development is for the adults involved, it is ten times as difficult for the children. Through no fault of their own, their lives change overnight. They may have to change residences, schools, or develop new friendships. Although the children had no direct involvement in the dissolution of the marriage, they must live with the fallout.
The good news is you and your ex-spouse have a great deal of control over how this all plays out. In your role as co-parents, you have the power to limit the negative effect your divorce has on your children by following some essential rules to co-parenting.
I have counseled many couples and families in divorced households at all stages of the breakup. It is incredulous to me, but there are parents who only see what they are going through and not how it is affecting their children. I often have to point this fact out to get the family back on track toward mending their relationships with one another.
Over the years, I have compiled several lists of what parents can do to make the situation easier on everyone including their children. Here are eight of my favorite ways for parents to reach common ground.
1. Act like the adult you are. Although it may be tempting to share the details of your relationship with your children, don’t. Let them form their own opinions of both their parents—good or bad.
2. Answer your child’s questions honestly or at least as truthfully as you can with age-appropriate language so that your child understands what you are saying.
3. Make it crystal clear that the divorce is not their fault. For young children, the simplest way of explaining a divorce may be, “Daddy, and I love you very much, but we’re not happy living with one another any longer.”
4. Present a united front. If possible, discuss any child-related issues before speaking to the children. That requires establishing an avenue of communication so that you can both agree on how to deal with each situation that arises. Children not only can become confused by mixed messages, but they are experts at manipulating a situation if presented with the opportunity to do so.
5. Deal with your anger and hurt. It’s just as important to heal yourself after a divorce as it is to help your children adapt. When you begin to change your attitude, your children will feel safer and more secure in their new situation.
6. Be flexible. Divorced couples commonly have disagreements about the schedule and who has the children when. Establish schedules early on, and if things come up as they often do, be flexible and find a way to work around the change. However, make certain to give your ex-spouse ample notice of any change. It’s just common courtesy.
7. Find the lesson. Every experience we have contains a life lesson. What was yours? Once you’ve identified it, you’ll find it will be much easier to look at your ex in a much more objective manner.
8. Make time for yourself. You don’t have to be mom or dad 24/7. When your co-parent has the kids, take some time for yourself. Go to a spa, play some golf, shop or go to the gym. Whatever it is that helps you relax. When you rejuvenate and feel better about yourself, you become a better parent to your children.
Co-parenting is not easy, but it is possible. It just takes determination, the will to do it, a level of understanding for the other adult involved and unconditional love for the children involved. Just remember to listen and think before you say anything. Because once it’s said, you can’t take it back.
One of my favorite quotes is “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” I’m not certain who said it, but it speaks volumes about what I help people achieve in their lives. By providing professional and practical information, techniques, guidance, and support, I help you move forward with confidence, greater knowledge and insight, more self esteem, let go of who you are expected to be and welcome who you are.
To find out how I can help you move forward, either with your co-parenting skills or other areas of your life in which you are having rough patches, please contact me today.