Divorce is rarely easy. When there are children involved, it becomes even more difficult. Whatever differences you may have with your other parent, you still need to work as a team and raise your children in a healthy environment. The following are some helpful suggestions to ensure that your children continue to thrive, even if their parents are no longer living together.
The Children Come First
Whatever the difference between you and your ex, the children’s needs come first. The two of you should provide the children with a united front when it comes to rules and punishments. If your relationship is still filled with too much bitterness to do this, a therapist can help you see past the bad feelings and help make the children your top priority.
If the other parent is being difficult and not wanting to cooperate or comply with an agreement, speak with an attorney about your options. Where you are in your journey will impact the way you can ask for court intervention. For example, if your divorce or paternity action is still pending, you may ask the court to refer you to specialist, if available. If the action is finalized, you may want to ask the court to enforce an agreement or court order court. Speak with an attorney about your options; most offer a free consultation.
Communication is Essential
You and your ex may no longer be together, but you are still connected through the children. It is important that any issue relating to the children’s welfare is shared and discussed. Children frequently will “act up” following a divorce. They are scared of what is happening. If your child is misbehaving or behaving differently, be sure to share that information with your ex and keep him or her in the loop. If your child won an award, make sure your ex knows.
Any lack of communication between the parents will adversely affect the children. If you aren’t ready for in-person or over-the-phone conversations, at least send an email. Getting back on speaking terms should be an important goal, as this will teach the children that people can have differences and still communicate effectively.
Tools such as Our Family Wizard and Talking Parents are great alternatives for communicating with the other parent. These platforms allow parents to communicate, share calendars, track expenses, and transmit payments. Courts have access to these tools and may view communications between parents to the case.
In a perfect world, you and your ex would raise your children in the same way. But there can be different styles of parenting even among happy couples. If you insist on healthy, organic meals and your ex believes burgers and fries are a fine dinner, don’t argue. Accept that there will be differences. However, make it clear what the rules in your home are. “I know Daddy has donuts for breakfast. He’s allowed. But we have different rules in this house.” Be flexible but firm. A donut will harm your children much less than constant arguing over every issue.
It is more than likely that you and your ex have agreed on a schedule as to who will have the children when. While you should be flexible, the schedule should be adhered to as much as possible. Children thrive on consistency. If plans keep getting changed at the last minute, it will confuse and upset them.
On the other hand, if there is an event (such as an ex’s birthday) happening during a time when the children are scheduled to be with you, be flexible enough to allow them some unplanned time with your ex.
Don’t put down your ex in front of the Children
It is natural for you to feel some bitterness toward your ex. However badly he or she may have behaved as a spouse or partner, he or she is still the children’s parent. If you feel the need to vent over past wrongdoings, find an adult or a therapist. Instead of venting to the children, do whatever you can to build up your ex in the children’s eyes, as in “isn’t it great how Dad is turning into a great cook and fixing these delicious meals? Good for him.” Your positivity will rub off on the children.
Take care of Yourself
Even the most amicable separations can be difficult. Now is the time to make yourself a priority. Think positive thoughts. Pamper yourself with a massage. Treat yourself to a new outfit. When you practice self-care, you create a positive and happy environment for the children.
Take time in introducing new Partners
You are beginning to date again and are meeting a variety of people. Being in a new relationship is helping you heal. But a new partner may confuse and upset the children, regardless of their age. Be sure of where the relationship is going before you introduce another party to your children. And be sure your ex is aware of the situation and is providing support.
Following a separation between parents, children are very likely to test new boundaries. They will misbehave just to see what they can get away with. Don’t be driven by guilt. Instead, make it clear that you are still their parent and that there are still rules of behavior to be followed. Don’t be the “cool” parent who permits them to get away with everything. Be the “dull” parent who knows when to draw the line.
Co-parenting can be as easy or as difficult as you make it. Commit to working with your ex to assure that the children will continue to have consistency and love in their lives. Make sure that your children remain involved with the ex’s side of the family. The most successful co-parents communicate as often as possible. They understand that this is not about them, but about keeping the children healthy and happy.
The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.
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