Fewer children are growing up in traditional, nuclear families. According to the Pew Research Center, “Fewer than half (46%) of U.S. kids younger than 18 years of age are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage.”
While non-traditional families may be quickly becoming the norm, navigating co-parenting after a divorce can be tricky. Use these strategies to raise healthy, happy children while co-parenting with your ex-spouse.
1. Constructively And Openly Discuss Your Child’s Feelings
In an effort to stay neutral, some parents take it too far, failing to discuss their divorce and new custody arrangements altogether. While it is smart to be mindful and careful about your child’s feelings, doing that means talking about and helping them with this transition.
Keep the conversation focused on them. Give your child or children the opportunity to tell you how they feel about the divorce, and ask if they have any questions. Ask if there is anything you can do to put their mind at ease. Some solutions, Parents.com writes, are easier than you might think. For example, if a child has a favorite activity they wish to continue, make sure you set aside time for that activity at both parents’ homes.
2. Know The Importance Of Professional Mediation
Even those of us with the best intentions need help at times. Divorce can be an emotionally fraught time. Sometimes, in order to make the best decisions for you and your children, it is important to work with divorce lawyers and custody attorneys. Divorce lawyers can help mediate and help you navigate the typical divorce process from divvying up assets to settling on child custody arrangements.
Plus, divorce lawyers help with one of the most difficult parts of the process: determining appropriate child support payments. Child support can be absolutely critical for paying for child care. Among impoverished families, these payments account for 70.3% of households’ annual income. Without professional mediation, it can also feel like putting a dollar amount on how much you love your child. Professionals can help you determine the proper amount for your family and give you access to averages and figures to make certain you do not under- or over-estimate these expenses.
3. Do Not Force Or Encourage Allegiances
Do not speak ill of your ex-partner. Simply put, this creates problems.
Remember, you share your child with your ex-partner. Criticizing your spouse may sound like an attack on your child as well — after all, in most cases, they have half of your ex-spouse’s DNA. Plus, this criticism may make children feel pressured to take sides and/or defend their other parent. If you need to air your frustrations, talk to a therapist or a friend in confidence.
4. Map Out The Logistics
Sometimes, being transparent about your custody arrangement and your child’s new schedule can go a long way to put him or her at ease. Put up a large calendar for your child to see. Clearly mark the days at your house, and at your spouse’s, weeks in advance. Use fun stickers to differentiate the days. Make sure your child knows who will be picking them up from school or taking them to their next extracurricular activity.
5. Learn And Practice The Three Ps
According to GOOP, the three Ps are personalize, patience, and process. When problems crop up — and they will — try to look at it as an obstacle to overcome, not as an opportunity to assign blame. Focus on the issue, not who is at fault for it.
Be patient. Your child is unlikely to adjust overnight. Stay calm and collected as often as you can. Aim for long-term success, not one or two good days.
Keep conversations open and ongoing. Try to be a safe soundboard for your children a much as possible. Encourage them to talk about and feel their feelings.
While there is no secret to co-parenting after divorce, try applying several strategies — like giving your child room to speak, working with divorce lawyers, and putting up a calendar for your child — to increase your chances of success.