The primary focus in creating a stable co-parenting environment must be the children. While nearly all newly divorced parents agree with this in theory, their actions following their separation may not line up. The personal animosities and resentments that likely fueled the divorce may still linger, clouding your focus when your children need you most.
Keep a steady hand, especially in front of your children.
Regardless of the emotions stirred up during the divorce process, remain positive when talking to your child about your ex. You may feel they deserve some or all of the blame for the marriage failing. You may even be right. But that person is still your child’s parent, and one of the most important figures in their world. Now that the marriage is over, you must do everything possible to create a positive environment for your child, and that means watching your tone and choosing words carefully when discussing your ex.
Your ex may feel differently, and they may try to denigrate you, and put you down to your child. Don’t follow suit. If you feel taking your ex down a peg will elevate you in your child’s eyes, you’re mistaken. Children are incredibly intuitive, and they can sense insecurities, pettiness, and hostility. No matter what, take the high road. You can’t control everything your child hears, but you can ensure that the time they spend with you is meaningful, positive, and constructive.
Make the separation clear.
While maintaining a positive co-parenting environment is the best-case scenario, keep in mind that you and your spouse have still made a conscious choice to end your marriage. Many divorced couples report trying to maintain a version of unity right after their divorce; having family dinners together, celebrating holidays, going to their kids’ games, etc. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin have been the poster-couple for this divorce style, coining the term “conscious uncoupling,” taking family vacations together, and keeping a semblance of their former family unit. Here’s the issue though; this type of arrangement rarely works.
You and your spouse likely had very good reasons for ending your marriage, and continuing to see them on a regular basis can prolong that suffering, albeit in a different form. Successfully surviving a divorce, more often than not, is about separating and moving on. What’s more, parental separation is already confusing for children, but a “soft separation” is likely to make things worse. Children have trouble accepting the finality of divorce, and still seeing their family together on a regular basis makes this much harder by giving them the impression that things may go back to normal at any moment. In reality, the sooner they accept that their parents have separated, and won’t be getting back together, the sooner they can start accepting their new life.
Focus on communication, especially during the holidays.
Depending on your custody agreement, you and your ex may still share a lot of responsibility in taking care of the children. Especially if you won’t be going down the “conscious uncoupling” road, make clear arrangements and stick to them. Plan out who will have the kids on which days, who will handle transportation, and communicating when things come up. Hopefully, both of you share the desire to create a stable environment for your kids, so you should be able to put your differences aside and stick to your arrangement. [are you using Our Family Wizard for scheduling?]
The holidays can be a challenging time for co-parents, but the best course of action is usually to alternate the major holidays every year — Christmas or Thanksgiving, or Christmas Eve/Christmas morning, etc. Holidays are an important part of a child’s life, and now more than ever, the focus belongs firmly on their stability.
Even if things are complicated, this is great opportunity to create new holiday traditions. If the kids are with your spouse on Christmas day, find something fun to do together the day after, and make that a regular staple for your family. Your new family unit is what you make of it, and with the right amount of creativity and optimism, you can create unique celebrations that your children will cherish.
Swati Desai is a specialist Child Custody Attorney and is a brilliant family law attorney. Her offices are based in the cities of Long Beach and Orange. Some time this year (date to be announced) she will be expanding her offices in Anaheim. Swati Desai has great compassion for divorce couples and isn’t afraid to deliver both the good and bad prognosis on a given case, her plight is to get you the best outcome in front of a judge, for the benefit of your child. She does not represent the child but the parent involved only. If you feel you are in a position to mediate with your ex husband or wife, Swati offers the possibility for mediation but if the parties are unable to reach an amicable resolution, then Swati is prepared to litigate on your behalf. For more information contact Swati and her team at 562-999-3774.