Sharing custody of a child after separation or divorce is never easy. Sure, the pain and suffering of a breakup are certainly felt by the parents, but the stress takes a toll on the kids too. As a parent, you obviously want the best for your children, so perhaps you can make co-parenting easier for them. Here’s how:
7 Tips for Parents Sharing Custody
1. Put Hurt and Anger Aside
Co-parenting can only be successful if you take control of your emotions. This means that feelings of anger, sadness, resentment, or hatred should be kept aside, and the needs of your children should be prioritized. Setting your feelings aside also means that you will have to cooperate with your ex – one of the hardest things to do at first, but you will gradually get used to it. Sharing custody is not about your or your ex’s feelings. It is about the future wellbeing, stability, and happiness of your child.
Separate Your Feelings from Behavior
You are bound to feel upset and hurt over the divorce, but your feelings should not define your behavior. Allow whatever works well for your kids to motivate your actions. If you want to vent, talk to a friend or a therapist but don’t compromise your kids’ happiness.
2. Improve Communication
It may seem impossible, but purposeful, peaceful, and consistent communication with your ex is essential to maintain shared custody. It is all about how your mindset works. Just think about effective communication as a means to serving a higher purpose – your child’s wellbeing. Before you speak with your ex about anything, ask yourself how the conversation will affect your child. When you learn to make your child the point of focus in every discussion, you will learn to communicate effectively. Keep in mind that it is not always necessary to meet your ex in person. You can easily communicate over the phone or via email. The goal is to maintain effective communication without conflicts.
- Make requests
- Listen carefully
- Monitor your tone
- Keep conversation child-centric
- Commit to talking
3. Work as a Team
Co-parenting will involve a lot of decisions that you will eventually have to make with your ex for the best interests of your child. So whether you like each other or not, you will have to sit down and discuss the future of your child together. Talking to each other without constant bickering or yelling will make the decision-making process simpler for both sides.
Aim for Consistency
It is better for children to have different perspectives to be flexible, but they also need to learn that they will live with similar basic expectations in each house. Aiming for consistency will avoid unnecessary confusion and frustration. Here’s how you can maintain consistency:
- Follow the rules
- Maintain discipline
- Schedule the visits
4. Make Visitation and Transition Easier
Constantly moving from one house to another, whether it is over the weekend or few days every now and then, can be a very difficult time for many children. This implies that a reunion with one parent on a certain occasion means being away from the other. For these young kids, every hello is also a goodbye. Even though visitation and transition may be unavoidable, there are several steps you can take to make it easier for your kids.
- Depending on the age of your kids, help your children pack their bags so they don’t forget to take anything that they’ll miss later.
- Help children anticipate change by reminding them a day or so before that they will be going to the other parents’ house.
- Give your children space and time to adjust to the transition. Things will eventually go back to normal in their own time.
5. Create a Parenting Plan for Sharing Custody
Sit down with your ex-partner and create a schedule together. Make a list of the routines and rules for your kids that both parents need to adhere to. The more detailed your plan will be, the better it will be for the kids. For example, who will the kids spend the holidays with, where will the kids celebrate their birthdays, when will they visit the other parent, etc? Moreover, when and where you will pick up your kids on visiting days and how long each parent should wait before introducing a new partner. It is necessary to cover up the details to ensure the best outcome for everyone.
6. Fair Does Not Always Mean Equal
After the split or the divorce, keep in mind that fair does not always mean equal. It is not necessary for each parent to get the same amount of time or visits with their kids. For instance, if you are a mother and you often have to travel for work or have late-night shifts at the hospital, it is possible that your child will spend more days at the father’s house.
7. Never Argue In Front of Kids
It can be difficult to keep your composure even in front of children, especially when someone is getting on your nerves. But sharing custody implies that each partner respects the other in front of their kids. Fighting or arguing in front of children can have a negative psychological impact on them. Your kids are dependent on you for love and support, and both parents always fighting will leave them feeling conflicted about whom to align with.
Sometimes even adversity, such as a divorce, can become an opportunity for many parents to come together and focus on the wellbeing of their children. For most, the odd days of co-parenting will scar them with vivid memories, but the power to make shared custody the best possible experience for them is within you. It is important to create memories for children that will allow them to remember that both parents played a major role in their upbringing and did everything they could to make things work.