Tag Archives: co-parenting

There’s No Such Thing as a Part-time Dad (or Mom)

Time sharing may very well mean that you see your children less than you did when you were married. This, however, does not mean that you are now a part-time dad or mom. You are either a parent or you are not. Actually, many divorced parents spend more time with their kids than parents in intact families. But no matter how much time you spend with your children, if you commit to it regularly and responsibly, you are a parent.

Regardless of how much time your agreement or the courts have deemed suitable for you to spend with your children, this time is not and never should be confused with babysitting. There’s no need to constantly take your children on expensive adventures, buy them gifts, or keep them perpetually entertained. Children are happy to simply be with you.

Time away from mom’s house (or dad’s) is and should not be defined as time away from home. Your kids do not “visit” you; they live with you. They have one home with Dad and another with Mom. Even if your new home does not have enough space to provide your child with the same sort of living arrangements he or she has with their other parent; it can be made to feel like their home too. Involve them in making it feel they belong there.

Find things that you and your children enjoy doing together. Your children will know when you too are enjoying yourself; just the way they will know if you are standing on the sidelines of the playground checking your cell phone. Make your time together count.

Studies show that many children cope well after a divorce, especially when there is joint custody. Allow yourself to be the parent you want to be. Think of this as your opportunity to re-connect with your children – this time on your own terms; not the way your ex deemed appropriate.

Statsitics Say Kids are Happier

Years ago I recall talking with a friend who was in a very unhappy marriage. Each time we met she would tell me how many more years, months, weeks she had to endure her marriage until she could finally get out. She was staying for her daughter. Innocently, I asked, “Don’t you think your daughter would rather see her mom happy and divorced than in a marriage that makes her miserable?” She thought about it and the next time we met she told me she was leaving. I had no idea that my question had so much impact.

My friend, like many others, believed her daughter didn’t know that she and her husband were miserable. But, she came to find out, that a child’s perception often overrules our ability to camouflage. It then occurred to her that although her daughter was merely eight years old; she wanted to provide her with the role model of a strong and happy woman and that was no longer possible while married to her husband. I won’t go into the details, but in time they were divorced, learned to parent together from two households and their daughter has acclimated to the situation.

Curious, having read a recent poll claiming that 82% of those aged 14 to 22 who have endured family breakups would prefer their parents to part if they are unhappy, I asked my friend if she ever talked to her daughter about the differences from then to now. At eleven, her daughter clearly articulated that it was so much better this way. “Everyone is happier.”

That same survey revealed that adults and older children of divorced families say that they realized later on that it was for the best. This does not mean, by any means, that divorce is easy on anyone, but it does somehow attest to the long standing notion that staying together for the children is not the answer.

The answer is (drumroll please)…making divorce and co-parenting work…which again is not always an easy feat, but is certainly possible and leaves open much more opportunity for everyone involved.

Adjusting to Shared Custody

Adjusting to shared custody during or after a divorce can be one of the most difficult parts of starting a new life. The periods of separation can be tough and even challenging, particularly when the wounds of divorce are still fresh. Letting go of trying to be a part of the children’s every moment is probably one of the most arduous parts, but for the sake of both the parents and the children; it is beneficial.

Children, who may be used to spending more time with one parent or another can also experience some form of separation anxiety. Try to find positive and creative ways to communicate with your children while they are visiting your former spouse without stepping on the toes of the other parent. It is important to allow him or her to parent; which is why co-parenting and communication is so important.

Rather than waiting for your children to call you whenever they feel like it, which may make kids worry about making the other parent feel betrayed or jealous, you can initiate a call. Arrange to ring at regular times, so you both can look forward to catching up, and your ex can arrange for them to be available when you call.

Do keep the calls brief though. Do not take a lot of their time away from the other parent and certainly keep your conversation positive. Although you may miss them terribly and feel sad; do not tell them as this may make them feel badly for the absent parent; sparking feelings of guilt. Tell them a funny story. Smile, even if it is forced.

Do not use your children as messengers. Keep adult business between you and your ex. Also, do not interrogate them about what your ex-partner does. You will have to learn to trust that he or she loves them as much as you do and therefore is doing his/her best to parent them.

When the children are away for longer periods of time; sending a letter or card can be a great way to stay in touch. Tell them all about your daily activities and plans for when you see them again. Emails work too and may allow them to write back, but don’t be offended if they don’t. Text messages are also a great way to keep in touch with older kids.

Skyping or Facetime is always a great option. You can chat with your children about daily activities or just blow them a kiss over the webcam. This is where that forced smile may come into play, but it will come more naturally with time. Once again, do not monopolize their time.

Children often sound distant or feel shy when they are with the other parent; as they may believe they are betraying the other parent. Don’t be offended. Rather, explain to them when they are with you that it’s okay to love both parents.

Remember, if your kids are immersed in activities with their other parent, that’s a good thing. It means they’re having too much fun to miss you. Let them be carefree and happy; they’ll still have plenty of love for you when they come back.

Co-Parenting with Laughter

Every once in a while I get a few minutes to page through a magazine and today, in November’s O Magazine, I came across a letter in Lisa Kogan’s column called, “May We Help You?” that made me literally laugh out loud at an issue that rarely has a funny side. A woman wrote in claiming that her boyfriend speaks to his ex-wife almost daily to schedule activities for their three children, but what bothered her is that she often hears them “laughing together instead of arranging carpools.” She goes on to say that he has dinner with the ex-wife and the kids every Tuesday.

While I understand that she may feel left out, and one really has to read Ms. Kogan’s response, as she is candid and comical, the part that struck me was how fabulous for these children. Of course Ms. Kogan addresses all the reasons why the girlfriend needs “let it be,” but my favorite line was when she pointed out that those Tuesday night dinners “might be sacred to the kids.” I have said it before, and I will say it again, a divorce or separation does not preclude anyone who has children from being part of a family. A parent will always be family to a child; therefore if a child’s parents can get along…and even laugh together; so much the better.

Not all parents get along well enough to co-parent with laughter; actually some can barely be in the same room, but this does not preclude anyone from the reality that it can only be easier and healthier for children when there is calm and compatibility particularly in their regard. Not every family is meant to have Tuesday night dinners, but there are multitudes of ways co-parenting can work. Sometimes just learning to have a civil conversation can be an improvement. Parent coaches can help. Remember, you are not just doing this for yourself, but most importantly for the children.

I often give examples to dueling parents that regardless of the fact that they may never want to see each other again they still have graduations and weddings to contend with and there is no doubt that they will be more happy and less stressful occasions if everyone learns to get along. Yes, it is possible to learn such behavior. Parents are forever tied together as long as they have children. And what in life isn’t better than a little laughter?

Communicating After Divorce

Although many parents would like to believe that once the papers are signed they will never have anything to do with their ex-spouse again. The truth is that as long as there are children in common this cannot and will not work. However, there are various ways to communicate. Communication is a key to successful co-parenting.  A good working relationship between parents can make all the difference, and most importantly, in the lives of the child(ren).

Whether trying to decide on day to day issues, vacation time or health or education decisions, various methods can work. Some parents may prefer to do everything via email, while another may be comfortable sitting and talking with the other parent. An important rule of thumb though is to never use the child(ren) to deliver messages.  Try to compartmentalize your issues about your ex-spouse and remember they are your issues and not the child’s. When you have your child tell the other parent something for you, it puts him or her in the middle of your conflict.

Along these same lines it is important to never say negative things about your ex to your child(ren). This can make them feel badly about themselves as they are still related to the other parent. It can also make them feel like they have to choose. Your child has a right to a relationship with his or her other parent that is free of your influence.

Some options for communicating with ex’s can be:

  • telephone
  • texting
  • email (Our Family Wizard is a useful email system geared toward parent communicaiton
  • meetings
  • parent coordinators or coaches (who can help both parents work towards better co-parenting and communication)

Some parents may choose to use one of these methods and others a combination of them. The important thing is that the lines of communication remain open in order to successfully co-parent.