Life after divorce is full of compromise, changes, and occasional disagreements. One major difference will be the introduction of co-parenting, where you and your spouse will have to work together to raise your children, both as individuals and members of the same team. Even though you have successfully parented your children until this point, collaborative co-parenting is a new venture that will require time and effort by both parties. The transition will not be seamless, but with a commitment to your children, co-parenting can be as successful as raising children with married parents.
Make A Plan
This first step will largely be addressed in your separation agreement, either composed by you and your spouse, or assigned to you by a judge. This agreement lays out the living arrangement and visitation schedule of your children.
If you don’t have a separation agreement for your uncontested divorce, start one here.
The details and habits of your co-parenting arrangement will be based on this schedule. Some resources recommend always dropping your child off on switch days opposed to picking them up at your spouse’s residence, as this will eliminate the possibility of interrupting a bonding moment or sensitive conversation.
Set Your Intentions
After implementing your initial parenting schedule, you should meet with your Ex to set out specific intentions which will act as a guideline for conduct in co-parenting. This helps to form a strong basis for ongoing communication, as all parents can agree that the well-being and supported growth of your children is at the forefront of all decisions. Writing down these agreed upon principles would also be good practise. These goals should include compromise, collaboration, open communication, respect for one another, and support for your child’s relationship with your ex-spouse. These intentions can be referenced when conflict arises in the future.
Support Your Spouse
Although you may no longer need your spouse to be a major part of your life, your child does. Studies show that children have happier and healthier development if they are raised by both of their parents, separated or not. They thrive on the love, guidance, and support of both parents and would be severely impacted by the sudden disconnect of either parent. Remember to celebrate your child’s relationship with your ex-spouse by asking about their time together, and being as happy to pick your child up as you are to see them off. This will also help maintain a degree of normalcy that is often damaged through the separation process.
Additionally, you should never talk badly about your spouse to your child. The weight of your separation is enough to handle, they don’t need reminders of your discontent for your ex-spouse or the details of your separation. Although it’s okay to take an interest in their relationship with your ex, you shouldn’t be digging for information or secrets about your ex’s personal life through your child. This puts them in an uncomfortable place, and may drive them to reject you and your ex-spouse.
Consistency is Key
It’s expected that your child’s experience with each parent will differ to a degree. This is even a good thing, as your child will develop unique and cherished bonds with each of you. However, for fairness and consistency, house rules should span both residences. These rules can include a routine bed time, similar stances on time spent on electronic devices/television, dietary habits and time dedicated to homework. These aspects will depend of course on your individual separation agreement and child custody schedule, but the goal remains the same: your child should be raised with routine and consistent habits between both residences.
It is inevitable that you and your spouse will have disagreements or quarrels through the day to day interaction of co-parenting. Never let your children in on these disagreements: they already have to adjust to recent changes in the family dynamic. When these quarrels do surface, return to the intentions you had set forward in your co-parenting plan. At the centre of your compromise as parents is the drive for your child to have a normal, healthy development. With this in mind, it becomes easier to resolve petty conflicts.
Routine Professional Communication
With your divorce finalized, you may be looking forward to more distance than ever from your ex. However, divorcees with children can expect to play a big part in one another’s lives for many years to come. Typically, the younger that your child is at the time of separation, the more contact you will have to have with your ex. Open and routine communication will keep you both involved about how your child is doing in school, how they are coping with divorce, what their latest medical and social needs are, and any challenges that either parent encounters. New applications are being developed which can help you streamline communication and organize joint calendars, like coparently.
When you do have discussions about your parenting arrangement, remember to keep these interactions professional. It’s even been recommended that you handle these conversations as business interactions so all decisions are made from a rational standpoint. You have an emotional history with your ex-spouse, but parenting discussions are not the place to revisit this. Discuss the issues at hand and emphasize the situations where you have been able to reach an agreement. Using negotiation tactics are helpful in these meetings.
Your Wants and Needs, And Theirs
As a parent, you are entitled to time and resources with your child. You are entitled to seeing them on special occasions and sharing major life events with one another. However, as a parent to your child, your ex is entitled to the same quality time. Your occasions and parenting schedule will not always line up, so be prepared to run into conflict. Do your best to act amicably in these exchanges, and look for opportunities to afford your spouse the time they want. This effort will not go unnoticed, and will come in handy when you are likewise seeking extra time or special visitation.
Cherish Time With Your Child
Co-parenting has proven to be successful, and children grow up with the love and support of two parents regardless of their marital status. To take full advantage of time spent with your children, try not to ponder the challenges of your family dynamic or the pain of your divorce. This time is meant for the two of you to bond and show your affection, don’t be preoccupied with your frustrations. Your child will sense your mental presence and will truly enjoy the time that you share.