This article was contributed, but man, it is good. It hits home, and I especially like the paragraph that I highlighted with my Practical Moms Unite logo. Since my daughter did have to live through a divorce and my ex-husband and I share custody, I know how important and difficult the points in this post are! I hope it helps someone else, too.
Sometimes relationships don’t work, and that’s part of life. However, when there are children involved, things can become messy and out of control faster than you’d like to think. It’s important to be able to create a relationship with your former spouse or partner, so that you can co-parent your children like you have been doing, but just not living together. Unfortunately, too many people don’t protect their children from the problems they are having within their relationships, and this can have a very negative effect on them. Co-parenting can be difficult, but children shouldn’t have to suffer through endless arguments between their parents. When all is said and done, the only important thing is that they are healthy, happy, and thriving children. Here’s how you can get through the struggles of co-parenting, so your children can thrive.
If you were married to the co-parent, then things can become a little more difficult than if you weren’t because of divorce proceedings and dividing what you’ve built together in a fair way, so that there are no arguments. You will also have to check what rules there are with the best divorce lawyer so that both of you are clear on what should be done.
It’s also likely that when the time comes to tell your children that you are no longer going to be together, they will be upset. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way out of this, but there are ways in which you can break the news to them more gently and avoid them feeling like their whole world is falling apart. Here are some things that you can consider doing:
- Rather than simply moving out or having your partner move out, prepare your children for the move first, so it’s not such a shock to wake up one morning and have one of their parents no longer living with them. It might be difficult for the two of you to be around each other, and that’s understandable, but it’s the kindest thing to do for the sake of your children.
- Speaking to your children in an age-appropriate way about what’s happening before making any decisions or changes in their lives will make the whole process much more smooth for them as they will understand the changes they are experiencing.
- It’s always best to explain that even though their parents aren’t together anymore, the love that you have for them won’t change and that they are the most important thing in both of your lives. This always seems like an obvious thing to say, but if left unsaid, it can leave your children feeling or wondering like any of this is their fault. Make sure they know that they haven’t done anything.
Obviously each family has their own problems, and dealing with something like a break up isn’t going to be the same for everyone.
The next thing that you will need to think about is the time they will spend with you vs the time they will spend with the co-parent. Come to an agreement that allows your children to know exactly when they are going to be with you, and when they are going to be with their other parent.
Letting your children have some decision making is always a good idea, so they don’t feel like they are losing all control. For example, when the transition of moving out is happening, allow your children to choose things to take to their other home You need to try and remember that it’s not just you and your ex dealing with the break up, it’s the children too, so if they need some comfort by taking a toy or comforter between each home then that shouldn’t be stopped.
Having to let your children go to their other parents’ home for a few days will be difficult! Since they were born, you may not have known a day without them. It will be heartbreaking to watch them as they go off happily, or if they don’t go off happily, that will hurt too. A great way to help diffuse the situation for both you and your children is to set up times where they can call you to tell you about their day or even something simple like saying good night.
Once you and your co-parent are no longer living together, decision making can become a tricky situation, especially if you are both disagreeing on something. Try to set up some sort of arrangement, where if there are decisions that involve your children to be made, you either meet or have a conversation on the phone. Many co-parents make the mistake of just making a decision without the other’s input, which then leads to arguments that could affect your children. On the other hand, there will be times where you disagree and you argue, but this should always be done in private, so your children don’t have to see their parents screaming and shouting at each other.
Relationship breakdowns are hard and are an emotional time for everyone that’s involved. Try to keep your composure, so you can make the transition as easy as possible for your children because at the end of it all they are the only ones that matter in all of this mess. Co-parenting is hard work; but if you both work with each other rather than against each other, you can make the process a little bit easier on everyone involved.