Last year, the divorce rate was at it’s highest this decade.
It’s a sad reality, but not all marriages manage to go the distance, and if there are children involved it can be all the more stressful, complicated and heartbreaking.
But it doesn’t have to be difficult to start co-parenting after divorce if you and your estranged spouse work on things calmly, sensibly and with the children at the forefront of the situation.
Here are some tips on how to do just that – and take care of yourself on the way…
Using Divorce As A Way to Thrive
Children are more than likely to be devastated and affected in the aftermath of a parental split, but it’s possible to co-parent in a way that teaches your child how to benefit being a product of divorce.
If you are able to provide routine, stability, a sense of security, and show them attentiveness throughout, this will shape them into more secure human beings.
How does this make them thrive? It’s teaching them a structure in the face of a trying circumstance and a ‘broken home’. In essence, co-parenting after divorce with fairness and a ‘game plan’ will provide your child with a thicker skin of sorts.
Communicate With Your Child Positively
If your child or children are having problems adjusting, simply talk to them and be that voice of reassurance.
If they become upset at the prospect of having to spend time with your ex away from you, tell them how much mommy/daddy is looking forward to seeing them and how they’ve got fun things planned for their time together.
If their upset is deeper than that, ask them what they want and what you or your ex can do about it.
Once you’ve got to the crux of the matter, communicate with your ex to resolve the situation – if it’s something you can both work on to resolve, do it. It’s to help your child after all.
Work With Your Ex
It’s likely that things aren’t rosy between you and your ex, but that’s for you two to iron out privately.
Put your children first and think about your ex as someone you have to get on with for the sake of those around you.
Treat them as an in-law you’re not keen on, or a family member you don’t care for. Or even a friend’s other half you must be cordial to. Or even as a colleague.
If there’s a big decision to be decided on, don’t text or email, where things can come across passive-aggressively. Meet in person – you’re going to have to cross paths whatever the situation. If you, for example, need to talk about an issue your child has at school, arrange to set time to talk about it when you or your ex drops your child off at your house.
Leave Competitive Parenting At The Door
It’s not a contest over who can clock up the most hours with your child.
Try not to get petty – avoid “well you had him the whole of last Saturday and you only want me to spend half of this Saturday with him” type conversations. It’s childish in itself.
Be fair with timings and don’t get possessive or greedy, and make sure the time you do spend with your child is quality time. This way, it doesn’t actually matter who saw them most that day/week/month.
If you can stomach still spending family time together – one meal a week, for example – then that might be nice for the child too.
If your child is off at an event with your ex (and a new partner potentially) leave them to it.
If they’re old enough to have a phone, don’t hammer them with texts or calls asking how they are or if they’re having fun. At a push, one little message might be okay but don’t behave like you’re checking up or spying on them.
Think about it – even if they’re enjoying their time with their mom/dad, if they feel like you’re a nag then they will be reluctant to come home knowing you were obsessing over it.
Double Up At Important Occasions
If you have the kind of relationship for this, then don’t segregate the time you spend with your child and your ex when it comes to special events.
School plays, graduations, birthday parties, parents’ evenings, swim meets – anything that is solely about that child should be an event you can both be at and celebrate together.
If you can go as a unit – even if there are new partners involved – then do it.
How Are You Feeling?
Divorce and spending time away from your child can be a lonely state of affairs.
So – use the time you have on your own to look after yourself – rest, read, tidy the house, exercise, watch that Netflix show you’ve been meaning to get into. Suddenly you have this extra time on your hands to do these things.
If you’re worried about loneliness, get out there and spend time with friends, family – or get back on to the dating scene.
By doing this, you’re not dwelling or festering and you’re taking steps to get yourself back on track which will make you happier, and in turn a better parent.
Co-parenting after divorce can also lead you to bitterness – but learn to tame this.
And disparaging your ex in front of your child isn’t a good idea either. You’re undermining their father or mother and this could get back to them via the child – leading to them undermining you.
Stay Positive When Co-parenting After Divorce
If the divorce process, the relationship with your ex or your child is finding things difficult, try to remain a beacon of calm amongst it all.
Don’t dismiss the idea of talking things through with your own parents, a counselor, or a trusted friend.
Filing for a divorce is a big change, and it’s okay to feel like a different person through the process.
Embrace the change and ride the wave of this new lifestyle – this will only benefit your children and teach them to do the same as their own lives are changed.
Life After Divorce
Along with the issue of marital status, the Court in a dissolution of marriage action can decide issues of child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support and paternity actions.
This can be a daunting time for anyone going through a split, and can add extra stress while co-parenting after divorce.