Many changes will occur in an individual’s life after a divorce is final. One of those things may be how you spend time with your children. Unless there are negative factors involved–such as domestic violence or substance abuse–you may be in a position where you are now a co-parent sharing custody of your children with your former spouse. Co-parenting means that both parents play an active role in their children’s lives and that the parents can effectively communicate to enable joint decision-making. This is ideal in most cases because the children can keep a close relationship with both parents and the parents are actively involved in the children’s care and upbringing.
Before your divorce, you may have felt that you had parenting under control, but now, you may feel unsure of how to handle parenting since the family dynamic has changed and an order or agreement relating to child custody has been entered. If you are or will be becoming a co-parent to your children, and are feeling uneasy about how it will work, below are some tips to help you co-parent successfully:
Focus on Communication
The success of your co-parenting role can be defined by communication. This can be difficult at first as you may have feelings of anger or hurt toward your former spouse; however, remind yourself that you are doing this for your children’s well-being, and they are worth it. With time, you will create a routine and things will get easier.
When communicating with your former spouse, it may help to think of the relationship with your former spouse as a business relationship. It is important to be cordial and focused on your children. Ensure you take the time to communicate with your former spouse on a regular basis (whether it is by text, phone, or in person) so you are both on the same page. When you communicate well with your former spouse, your children will sense this, and it will help them transition to the new routine more easily.
When interacting with your children and your former spouse, practice empathy. Try to understand how they are feeling and allow them to voice their feelings. Your children may miss your former spouse when they are with you and vice versa, or they may feel confused by their new routine. Whatever their feelings are, inviting your children or even your former spouse to express how they feel can help them to eliminate additional stress or anxiety.
To avoid introducing too much change into your children’s lives, it is important to be as consistent as possible between the two households. This helps to avoid confusion and allows your children to feel like their living situation is stable. It is OK to be flexible and have things change at times, but the more consistency you can provide for your children, no matter which house they are in at the time, the easier your children’s adjustment will be.
Share Special Moments
There will be times when you or your former spouse are not with your children during a special moment (e.g., an accomplishment or holiday) because the other parent will have the children. Respect your former spouse’s time with the children, but also feel free to share your children’s special moments with each other. For example, if you get to witness your child’s first steps, first goal at a soccer game, or an A+ on a test, share that with the other parent. You can take a picture or video, or simply let them know via text so they do not feel as if they are missing out. If you do this, perhaps they will do the same for you.
When you think about co-parenting with your ex, you may feel stressed and it may seem impossible. Remember that it is natural to feel this way after a divorce or separation, but if you decide to put forth your best effort, you may just find that you, your former spouse, and your children are even happier with the new arrangement.
If you have questions about child custody or if you want to learn more about how our experienced attorneys can help you, contact us online or call our office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at 412-261-4040.
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