Quality time with your kids shouldn’t be a battle
Divorce is never easy, but when children are involved you’ll still have to be in contact and make arrangements with your ex. With so much to figure out, shared custody can easily become an emotionally charged and heartbreaking situation.
Who will take primary responsibility for the kids? Where will they spend most of their time? Who gets the kids on which holidays? How will you schedule visitation? These are a lot of heavy discussions to have with someone you ended a relationship with.
So what can you do to make it easier on yourself – and the kids?
Don’t Badmouth Your Ex
At least not in front of the kids. It’s important to remember that your ex is part of who your children are. Since children are still forming their sense of identity, it can be easy for them to internalize these messages and believe the negative things you say are also true of themselves.
And while it may not have worked out between you and your ex, your child still loves his or her parent and should have the peace and freedom to continue loving them. So regardless of your true feelings –and whether or not they’re justified – try to focus on your kids’ lives instead of your ex’s or your own.
Don’t Turn Custody into an Agenda
Your needs were addressed during the divorce. Custody is all about what’s best for your kids. And the truth is that what’s best for them may not always feel good for you.
A divorce can be extremely emotional and the relationship may not always end on good terms. Many times parents will become so focused on their own pain or the need to get back at their ex that they make demands at the cost of their children’s well-being.
Don’t try to force your children to choose a side. Their time and affection is not something you have to win or wrestle away from your ex. If you’re able to put your ego aside, do what’s in their best interest and enjoy the time you do get to spend together, you’ll find that a child’s heart is big enough to hold you both.
Consider Everyone’s Schedules and Commitments
With so many emotions and future implications surrounding a custody arrangement, it becomes easy to demand unrealistic terms. Doing your best to remain unbiased will help you make decisions that have your children’s best interest at heart.
Focus on the facts and talk to your children (if they’re old enough) about what would suit them best. Consider their ages and personalities. Be honest about your work schedule and social commitments. Will you have time for the academic and extracurricular activities in which your children are involved? Is your ex’s schedule more or less flexible?
Keep in mind that the divorce is already a major change in their lives, which will require a significant amount of adjustment. Would forcing them to switch schools and friends at this time be the right decision?
A Failed Marriage Does Not Mean Failed Parents
The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) agree that, “It is generally in the children’s long-term interest to have continuing and meaningful contact with both parents after a divorce.”
The relationship didn’t work out, but that doesn’t mean that either of you are bad parents or will become bad parents. And while your ex may have driven you mad or not been faithful, it doesn’t automatically make him or her a bad parent.
No matter how you feel about it, your children will want and need love from both of his or her parents. Part of being a parent is putting their needs and well-being above your own. If you’re upset by the thought of your children spending time with your ex, or worry about how he or she will talk about you, remember that they’re with the one person who loves them as much as you do.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
While this may not have been a strong suit in your marriage, figuring out an agreeable way to communicate with your ex will make the shared custody arrangement work much more easily. Custody arrangements will generally work best when both parents agree to be respectful and cooperative so that the children’s needs are put first.
Now that you’re not living together, you won’t have to communicate face-to-face if you don’t want to. Instead, talk about all the different tools at your disposal – texting, email, cell phones, digital calendars – and work out a plan that both of you will consistently stick to.
Communication won’t always be easy and disagreements may arise. When they do, be objective. Consider whether the issue is really worth fighting over and choose your battles wisely. Deciding to part ways doesn’t mean that every conversation has to be fraught with negativity or become a battle of trying to “one-up” each other.
Remember that if you and your spouse can’t work something out, a judge will do it for you. And that decision is likely to please no one.
Talk to Your Children and Stay Flexible
While you shouldn’t discuss the details of the case with your children, or put them in a position to choose sides, you should take time to check in with your kids. Ask them how they’re feeling and, if they’re old enough, what they’d like to see happen with the custody arrangement. Allowing them to have input will encourage them to feel more comfortable with the idea and confident that your feelings toward them haven’t changed.
Giving teens and preteens room for input will also make it more likely that they’re agreeable to the schedule and ensure that it fits into their existing schedule, which will minimize conflicts in that quarter. Younger children may just want a say in what doll or pajamas they bring to their mom and dad’s house for the weekend.
And while letting them be heard is important, it’s just as important to make decisions that will benefit their well-being in the long term. Take time every so often to review the arrangement and speak with everyone involved to make sure that it’s still working. People mature. Situations and circumstances will change. Be flexible so that everyone’s needs are addressed.
Divorce can be an extremely tumultuous time in someone’s life, especially for parents and children. A family lawyer can help you navigate the difficult terrain of your custody agreement and figure out what will work best for everyone involved. Contact us today to speak with an experienced family lawyer in your area.