Divorce Survival Plan for Co-Parents Part I
Divorce Survival Plan Part I
Imagine yourself shipwrecked on a deserted island — just you and your children. How will you provide for their basic needs, while caring for yours, too? Do you have a survival plan?
Marital separation or divorce, while not necessarily a life-threatening situation, may seem just as dire. Even if in your heart you know divorce is the best solution for your family, any loving parent can’t help but feel frightened by the prospect of how it will affect your children. That’s why Wevorce specializes in helping families transition in a kinder way, one that will give you and your children the tools needed to not only survive divorce, but to begin again with a healthy and secure foundation beneath you.
Always consider the children’s best interest.
There is a lot of talk about the best interest of the children. What exactly does that mean? It means to parent, and eventually co-parent, in an effective, cooperative (and even friendly) way, keeping your children’s welfare at the heart of the matter to create a loving and safe environment in which they can thrive and be happy.
Going through a divorce usually means letting out all the emotional baggage that may have been bubbling inside that has brought you to this point. It can be ugly. It can be devastating. And it can be a roller coaster of ups and downs that will leave you feeling emotionally torn apart and even physically hurting.
You may think it will make you feel better to lash out, to allow the stranger residing inside you to take control. But, if you have children, you need to find a safe place in your mind, a space that isn’t crushed from turmoil. Seek it and get the parent inside you back in control. Get professional help, if need be. You cannot make sound decisions for you and your family’s future if your angry inner gremlin is making you behave harshly or cruelly.
It’s not easy, but it’s necessary. In order for you to move through divorce and into co-parenting mode in a safe and reasonable manner for your children’s best interests, you must maintain control. You already have common ground — your children. When times become overwhelmingly difficult, remember that.
Rules for co-parents.
One of the first conversations parents should have after reaching the decision to divorce or separate is how you each view co-parenting and how your relationship will work after. Don’t forget, parenting is a lifetime gig.
The good news is, co-parenting is a skill set — it can be learned. It may take a little time to acquire and get your family running smoothly after a transition, so be patient with one another. To ensure you’re both on the same page, discuss some basic rules of behavior and, if needed, write them down.
Here are a few behavioral rules to start with, the ones you should never break as a parent.
- Never fight in front of the kids.
- Never put them in the middle or use them as leverage.
- Never make them choose between you, and never use them as messengers.
- Never put the other parent down in front of them.
- Never grill them about time spent with the other parent.
- Never forget you are the adult and they are the child.
And here are a few you can never do enough of.
- Always assure your children they are not to blame for the divorce, it is not their fault.
- Always show you love them, now and forever.
- Always listen to what they have to say; it’s important.
- Always be there for them with support, understanding, and love.
- Always keep in mind they love you both and shouldn’t have to choose one over the other.
- Always keep adult conversations behind closed doors.
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
It can’t be stressed enough: communication is essential to successful co-parenting! If you find face-to-face talking difficult, use alternative methods. Decide how you two will communicate about the children, whether it’s by email, text, phone call, etc. Establish how often you need to touch base.
Here again, some rules of engagement should be set in advance: be civil and respectful (that will include future partners/spouses), stay focused and on topic (no backtracking to past grievances), and listen to what your co-parent has to say (after all, this isn’t a small-world dictatorship, this is co-parenting). The Golden Rule applies here: treat others as you wish to be treated.
Also, try to choose your words wisely: make requests, not demands. By being aware of the language we use, conversations will go much easier and we can avoid misinterpretations or misunderstandings. Even the simplest detail, such as using all capital letters in a text or email, can be upsetting as it generally signifies shouting. Instead of using the term “ex,” try saying “my children’s mother” or “my children’s father.” Rather than using legal terms, use more child-centered ones, such as “parenting plan” rather than “custody” and “visitation agreement.” By using softer language, this humanizes the divorce process and softens harsh and clinical terms that could otherwise be interpreted as hurtful.
It may be helpful to think of co-parenting like a business, a business where you are equal partners with your ex-spouse. Often, this allows parents to put aside their emotions and differences and get on with the business at hand — raising their children together. Showing a united front will give your children a sense of security in a time that is filled with change and can be frightening.
Look for Divorce Survival Plan for Co-Parents — Part II, as we continue this conversation on our blog soon.