Monday, July 15, 2013

Effectively Co-Parenting After Divorce

Effectively Co-Parenting after Divorce

Divorce is the death of your marriage.  When you married you never imagined that you would ever divorce.  Divorce is horrible for the adults. Imagine how difficult it is for the children of the marriage.  My parents divorced when I was over 30 years old, divorced, a mother & a divorce attorney.  It was still horrible for me.  I tell people that divorce is hard on children if you are 3, 13, 23 or 33!  
My dad said that once you have children you are never truly divorced.  You might be ending your marriage but you will be co-parenting your children for the rest of your life.  Below are a few thoughts to make co-parenting after divorce easier.  I never said that co-parenting after divorce is easy - I only said that I would try to make it easier.  
The parents are adults & you need to try to act like adults so that your children can act like children.  They love you both.  They don't want to have to choose.  Please let your children stay out of "adult business" and get to be your kids - no matter how old they are!
Key #1 – Let Your Kids Know You Love Them
Both parents need to make a concentrated effort to let your kids know how much you love them.  Kids sometimes feel like the divorce is their fault.  You need to make them understand that the divorce was between you and your ex, not them. You might be divorcing your spouse but you are not divorcing your child.  
Tell your child you love them every time you hang up the phone & at the end of every visit.  You can't say those 3 word enough.
Key #2 – Kids can sense your feelings 
Divorce can cause a lot of resentment and hostility between spouses.  For the sake of your children, you need to put this animosity aside.  If you need help,  then If you are angry and resentful towards your spouse then your child is very likely to pick up on that vibe and feel like they are in the middle between the two of you.  While it is perfectly normal to feel some anger or resentment towards your ex after a divorce, you need to find ways to deal with it that don’t have any fallout upon your child. 

Children can sense what is going on around them.  Children are very smart.  Even small babies watch everything going on all around them - even when you think that they are asleep.  So be very careful what goes on when they are at home.  They can tell when you are under stress.  They observe your non-verbal cues.  Children imitate the people around them.  So be aware of your non-verbal motions - eye-rolling, sighing, etc.  Please don't let your family and friends talk bad about your ex when your child is around either.  Children do not need to hear negative or hostile talk.  Children need to be in a positive and loving environment.  

Here are some ideas:
  • Vent to a trusted friend or family member
  • Stay focused on your child
  • Take a deep breath
  • Think before you speak
Key #4 – Never Put Children in the Middle
Similarly, do not vent your frustrations about your ex to your children.  You will hurt them if they are caught in the middle of your disagreements.  If you have something to say to your ex, say it to yourself.  Never say anything negative to your kids about your spouse, otherwise you risk making them feel as though they need to take sides.

Remember that your child is 50% of you and 50% of your ex.  When you talk bad about your ex in front of your child, you are telling your child that 50% of your child is bad!  Please don't do it!  
Key #5 – Communicate With Each Other
Communication is a key factor when raising a child.  You do not have to speak in person if you find this difficult after the divorce.  You can always pick up the phone to call your ex or just send an email or text.  Here are a few suggestions to help you have successful communication:
  • Ask, don’t demand
  • Listen
  • Do not overreact
  • Meet or talk on a regular basis
  • Focus on the kids
  • Inform each other about important events in the life of your children
  • Treat your ex with common decency that you would any stranger - use words like "please" and "thank you" and say "good bye" when you hang up the phone.
Key #6 – Apologize When Necessary
If you are wrong do not have so much pride that you will not say you are sorry.  If you make a mistake and do not apologize your relationship with your ex will be strained.  Avoid letting situations like this fester and just go ahead and apologize.  It will improve the relationship and in the long run that is what is best for your kids.

Remember your children are watching you.  Your non-verbal communication is important too -- so no eye rolling, no finger wagging or allowing any of your relatives to do so either.  Your children will learn to treat their future husband/wife the way your treat your ex -- so treat your ex nicely -- Remember you once loved this person!  

Remember that you get more flies with honey than with vinegar -- be sweet! 

Remember sometimes silence is golden!  

Sometimes it is better not to have the last word!  

Sometimes you can win the battle but lose the war -- if you try to win all the "fights" -- but your children end up suicidal and/or on drugs/alcohol and/or running away from home -- how have you won?

Remember you both want what is best for your children  -- so put your children FIRST!
Key #7 – Make Major Decisions Together
If you have a big decision to make regarding your child, meet together and come up with the best solution for the child.  Some of the major decisions might include:
  • Medical issues
  • Education
  • Finances
  • Sports
There is no doubt that effective co-parenting is challenging but do it successfully and you will be giving your children something priceless – a peaceful childhood.

Put your children's needs first!  You both love your children!  You might show your love differently -- but it does not mean that you both don't love them!

You are going to be co-parenting with your ex for the rest of your life so they need to find ways to work with your ex.

You will be co-grandparenting with your ex.  

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