Raising children after a divorce is completely different that raising them in a two-parent household. It doesn’t have to be difficult though if you follow some simple ground rules. Here are our top tops for success.
1. COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE! – Did we say communicate, yet? Text, CALL, and talk in person about what’s going on with your children. Tell the other parent if one isn’t feeling well, had a bad day at school, has a birthday party coming up etc. Nothing hurts children more than parents that don’t communicate with each other. Children feel stuck in the middle when they have to relay messages back and forth between their parents. Also, we find that as the child gets older, they will learn to manipulate this situation. For example, they will tell mom they are staying the weekend at dad’s house and vice versa to go and stay at a friend’s house all weekend or lie about where they are staying overnight. Communicating with the other parent is essential to effective co-parenting.
2. Be flexible – Life doesn’t happen neatly in conformity with the schedule that you choose for parenting time. If there is an event on the other parent’s time, offer to switch, or to let the child go with the parent. They will appreciate your consideration and likely extend the courtesy to you. Your child shouldn’t have to miss out on fun family events because it’s not “their time.”
3. Be courteous – For younger children, let them bring their favorite toys back and forth. These things belong to them, not you. Return the things that are brought to your house. Send a coat if it’s going to be cold. Send cold medicine if that’s necessary.
4. Use a shared calendar – As kids get older, the easiest way to keep everyone informed of extracurricular and school events is a shared calendar that everyone can see and write on. Try google, Icloud, or even Our Family Wizard. This way you don’t forget to exchange information and you aren’t ever accused of not communicating.
5. Scheduling events – Try not to schedule things on the other person’s time without asking first. Sometimes it can’t be helped but you should at least talk to the other parent before letting your child join flag football that has practice on the other parent’s time. On the flip side, be flexible, if your child wants to be in flag football and it’s on your time, take them! If you only have limited time with your child, try to work out a different day to exercise your time.
6. Right of First Refusal – If you have a work or social event on your time, offer to let the other parent keep the kids. If they can’t then obviously use a sitter. On the other side, don’t hold it against the other parent if they offer to let you keep the kids because they have an event to attend. Appreciate that you’ve been asked and take the extra time when you can. Don’t bring it up as if the parent isn’t spending their time with the child. All sorts of life events happen and you should be creating a co-parenting relationship that’s flexible.
7. Phones – Let your kids talk to the other parent when they are at your house. They should always be free to say hi to mom or dad. Don’t make them feel bad for wanting to talk to the other parent, encourage it. They might want to tell dad about their fun day at the park or call mom about an A on a test. Kids should never be made to feel like they are restricted from doing this. On the other side, be respectful of the other parent’s time. Don’t call every hour on the hour, keep the phone conversations relatively short (depending on the topic).
There are lots of different ways that families can work together to effectively co-parent. Every family and situation is different so you have to figure out what works for your family.