Guest post by Deborah Bankhead
I'll be honest, splitting up is hard. If you add kids to the mix, it's even harder. Several experts say that co-parenting is easily one of the most challenging parts of divorce or separation. Can your ex handle the kids by his or herself? Are they financially capable of doing so? What about child support? All of these factors can make co-parenting after a split draining, overwhelming, and even scary.
However, even with all of that, co-parenting is doable. Difficult, but doable. I'm going to share some suggestions on how you can keep your kids happy even after the split.
Separate The Personal Relationship
The first step towards successful co-parenting is separating the personal relationship with your ex from the co-parenting relationship. If you take the anger and resentment from your failed marriage and try to bring that into co-parenting, it'll always be complicated.
Try to think of it as starting over. Why not even think of it as a brand new relationship? After all, if you focus on the flaws, then that's all you'll experience. Remember, this isn't about you or even about your ex. This is about the wellbeing of your kids and doing what's best for them. Although your marriage is over, your family is not. Make the mature decision to put the needs of your children before your own.
Do Not Put Your Kids In The Middle
It's very easy to put your kids in the middle of you and your exes problems without even realizing it. Think about it. When you don't want to talk to your ex about an unpleasant issue, it's easy to tell your child, "well tell your [insert mom or dad] that X, Y, and Z didn't work because they...". See what happened there?
Doing something like that puts your child in the center of your conflict, which can be very confusing to them. It makes them feel like they have to choose a side and they shouldn't have to. Your child has a right to have a relationship with their other parent if they're a legitimately good parent.
Never use your child as a messenger to communicate problems with your ex. Also, avoid saying negative things about the other parent to your children. Resolve whatever issues you have directly with your ex.
Find Middle Ground
What often gets complicated with co-parenting is when one parent is okay with something that the other parent is not. It's a good idea to talk to your ex and have an agreement regarding things like:
* Chores and more
Your children will need consistency and security now more than ever before. Sometimes parents fall into the trap of trying to compete for their children's affection. If you're trying to be the easy-to-deal-with, cool parent, you'll only be adding to the instability. When it comes to the kids, try to be on the same page as your ex as much as possible.
Stick To The Script
Parenting time arrangements can also be a source of stability for your child. If your ex gets every other weekend, then stick to the script. If one of you decides not to honor the parenting time of the other, it causes conflict and confusion. Your child should be able to count on being with both of their parents.
Also, don't focus so much on having a 50/50 split between both parents regardless what your family lawyer might be advising you. Determine what schedule makes sense for everyone. It's the quality of time that matters, not the quantity. This is what will keep your children happy.
The 'New' Significant Other
Knowing that your ex has a new partner can stir up a ton of emotions, but separate your feelings from your behavior. You might be hurt and angry, but don't respond by trying to keep your child away. It's normal also to feel a little uncertain knowing that someone is around your child that you haven't vetted. In situations like this, ask your ex if you can meet their new partner. Being open and transparent involves swallowing a lot of pride, but remember, it's for your kids.
You Can Get Through It
Keeping your kids happy following a separation takes a lot of work, but with a little sacrifice and compromise, it can be done. When you make co-parenting work, your kids will be mentally and emotionally healthier, learn problem-solving skills, and have a good example to follow.
Deborah Bankhead is an Attorney at VS Family Law Group. Deborah believes compassion and patience are required of family law attorneys and she is a relentless advocate for families in crisis. In her spare time, Deborah volunteers to help teens interested in the legal field pursue their dreams and likes to hang out with her cat. www.familytexas.com