The de-coupling process of divorce is a very difficult thing for most couples. Taking the time to process the loss and adapt to the lifestyle changes that accompany divorce can be individually painful and can feel like it takes a seemingly endless amount of time. Having children impacted, who may have limited understanding and capacity for coping, can further complicate the situation. If for whatever reason you find yourself in a co-parenting situation, here are some relationship tips to help with the change.
- Love Your Child More than You Resent Your Ex-spouse: It is ok to be hurt and go through a mourning period in divorce, but doing what is best for your child almost always includes them having an intact relationship with their other parent. Try to let your child decide their relationship with both parents and don’t let the resentment from your experience determine how their relationship will look for the child. Don’t say things that belittle the other parent and taint the child’s relationship with the other parent. That being said, one parent cannot completely rescue the child from the realities of the situation, so exposure can be uncomfortable but necessary.
- Be Clear with Structure and Boundaries to Increase Predictability: Putting some legal custody in place for children can be a headache and a hassle. For many people it is a stressful and emotionally and financially taxing time period. However, having something legal in place is preventative care and a protection for your child when agreements cannot be reached. Children’s anxiety is decreased when they have a structure that they can rely on and make the changes in their life feel more predictable. If it is one parent’s weekend, make sure that the responsible parent makes arrangements and the other parent does not just give in when there is a minor conflict and they want to change it.
- Minimize Conflict-Ridden and Misdirected Communication: High conflict environments are stressful on children because they may not have the skills to cope and it can impact their sleep among other things. If co-parents cannot communicate peacefully, they should turn to a written format via email or text instead of high conflict confrontations in front of children. It is necessary for co-parents to be in communication regarding things like education, medical, psychiatric, and extra-curricular activities. They may consider making a shared calendar to increase predictability and continuity for their kids. Also, children are not messengers or spies for parents. Protect your kids by communicating directly with the co-parent.