By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
Parenting plans and contact schedules are an important part of divorce proceedings. They help create a semblance of routine in this new chapter of family life for divorcing parents. And for the children you love.
I am a strong believer in co-parenting whenever possible to serve the best interest of your children. But not all couples can work together with civility and harmony. So sometimes parallel parenting becomes the plan. That usually translates into you both parent the children but with minimum communication between one another.
Keep in mind that your kids pick up on the emotional energy around their parents. It’s no surprise that life after divorce is smoother and easier when both parents behave maturely and responsibly.
However you work out your shared parenting plan, it’s the day-to-day challenges of post-divorce life that puts all co-parents to the test.
Here are 5 important ways to ease the process for everyone involved, children and parents alike.
1. Be patient with one another. Starting any new schedule in life is never easy. Chances are the between-home transitions will present a number of challenges for you as you adapt to the many responsibilities involved. At the same time, think about the challenges for your children who never signed on for this. Be especially empathic with them if they express frustration, anger and resentment at first. Listen to them; respect their right to voice their feelings. Also allow your children time to adjust to the “new” home after each transition. In time these changes will become just another “routine.” Remember, your ex is adjusting to these changes just as you are. Be tolerant of one another. You’re all in the same boat so to speak.
2. Be prepared with all information in advance. Never argue in front of your children. Avoid disagreements over drop-off and pick-up details. About parenting issues too. Use a calendar app or one of the convenient online scheduling programs available. That way you and the kids can see at a glance when transitions will occur. Establish a system for creating and confirming schedule data — and use it. Know the answers before leaving home. Keep drop offs quick, simple and pleasant for the kids. Create a brief goodbye routine and send them on their way with a hug and a smile. If there are issues to discuss, talk to your ex when you’re both alone at another time.
3. Be as consistent as you can be. Consistency helps your children adjust more easily. Maintaining the same rules about bedtime, chores, homework and discipline makes life simpler for your children. When that’s an issue you can’t agree upon, keep this in mind. The more you change living habits from home to home the more confusing, frustrating and difficult it can be for your children. Don’t be resistant just to trigger your child’s other parent. It hurts the kids far more than your ex and the negative consequences can be long lasting. Make agreements whenever you can and agree to disagree fairly so both parents feel they’re in the game.
4. Be pleasant and positive. Some children feel guilty about staying at the other parent’s house. They fear you’ll feel lonely or abandoned. It’s important to give your children permission to enjoy themselves during their time with Dad or Mom. Tell them you have much to do and will appreciate some “alone” time. Remind them you will also miss them and look forward to their return. In advance, talk to them about the fun they will have. Remind them how much their other parent wants to see them, as well. Let them know both parents love them and deserve time with them. Never say disrespectful things about your ex before the visit. Don’t ask your kids to spy on Mom or Dad on your behalf. Let your children enjoy just being kids!
5. Be cooperative, flexible and understanding. Allow your children to feel free to contact their other parent. And let that parent contact them when necessary. Never create the feeling that their Mom or Dad is the enemy who can’t intrude on YOUR time with the kids. Be respectful when you do check in with them – and allow the same courtesy to your ex. That is what co-parenting is all about. Sometimes plans change. Bend over backwards to accommodate your ex. They will be nd more than likely they will do the same for you. This models behavior you want your children to learn anyway. Why not take the high road and be the parent you want your children to admire and emulate?
Remember, your children are watching you and learning from you. If you keep these 5 points in mind, you will be on your way to creating and living the child-centered divorce you want for your children. You have the power to make one of the most challenging post-divorce realities – sharing time with your children – a smooth and successful experience. You will all benefit from the effort you make to do it right from the very beginning.
Have doubts, problems, questions and fears? Reach out to a divorce coach, therapist, or support group for the answers you need. Don’t sit in silence and stew. You’re not alone. There’s lots of help available locally and online. So why not start today?
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right, her Coaching services and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.