You’ve made it through a brutal divorce. Now what?
Sometimes the hardest part about divorce is figuring out what to do next. For years you’ve made big decisions with a partner. Although you’re no longer married, maybe even no longer speaking, it’s to the entire family’s benefit to continue a united decision-making process. No matter the age of your children, you understand the time and effort it takes to give them the care and attention they need to grow. So, what’s next? It’s reformed front to provide peaceful co-parenting to the most important people in the world.
You don’t have to be friends with your ex to do well at post-divorce parenting. Follow these guidelines when looking to figure out what’s next for you as a parent.
First and foremost, remove emotions from situations that involve your child. No matter why or how you divorced, there are a lot of raw wounds left open and exposed after it’s all said and done. Although it’s healthy to confront and explore those emotions, you must know their time and place.
Emotions towards your ex should never make their way into a conversation about your child. It’s easier said than done, I understand, but check your emotions at the door. A tip I often give for recently split families is to think about their new relationship like a business transaction. You’re in the business of parenting, and it’s imperative that your company is successful.
Leave New Partners out of Arrangements
Let’s say your “now what” involves a new person. You and/or your ex has someone new into their life, and things are getting serious. No matter how serious the new relationship is, it should never interfere or mix with your parenting. This is crucial, especially within the first year after a divorce or separation. The idea here is that it’s hard enough to create expectations with two people’s opinions in the mix, let alone adding a third set of opinions. This also goes along with tip #1, because adding a new partner to the process will stir up many unwanted and unhelpful emotions.
There are many cases where post-divorce parents with new spouses can win at co-parenting…
…but big decisions about the child should predominantly remain between parents. If you need a third opinion, seek professional help. A mediator or therapist can do wonders with easing the pain of creating a “new normal” for your family.
Agree Upon Rules and Consequences
Here’s where tips #1 and #2 become exponentially helpful. Both parties should agree upon a set list of rules and consequences. For example, the rule is that your child must do their homework each night and the consequence of not following the rule is that your child will lose TV privileges for the night. Rules must cater to the ages and abilities of your children. If you have multiple children in a wide range of ages, consider creating rules and consequences for each.
A common misstep among separated couples is regulating and disciplining in contrasting manners. This can create confusion, resentment, or behavioral issues with children. It’s reassuring for a child to understand their limits and expectations.
If it’s difficult for both parties to agree upon a set of rules, I suggest using a third party to mediate and alleviate negative emotions involved in the process.
Have a Set Schedule
Along the same lines as having a set list of rules, peaceful co-parenting is formed through planning. For some divorcees, schedule creation is completed during the divorce process. This often includes deciding where children spend holidays, summers, and weekends.
Even after that’s decided, there are many little bumps along the way that you must account for. For example, if you have your child during the school week when they receive all of their event calendars, who will attend each event, you, your ex, or both?
As I mentioned above, think about a peaceful co-parenting process as a business transaction. The office has a shared calendar to inform employees of upcoming events and absences. The same should apply to creating a schedule for your new-formed family. You can use an electronic shared calendar, send a text or email with a list of events, or give your ex a physical copy of a calendar when you do pick-ups/drop-offs. As long as both parties are aware of the schedule, you’re smooth sailing.
With all of the rules, regulations, and schedules you create it may seem like you have an iron-clad plan that can’t be taken down. That often isn’t the case. Finding your new normal is messy, and doesn’t always go as planned, so be flexible. Throughout the co-parenting process, remember that we’re only human. You or your ex may forget to add an event to the calendar, or a last minute event may arise where you need to make a change of plans. As long as it’s not a regular occurrence, the most peaceful path to take is a path of flexibility.
Following these five guidelines allow for peaceful prepping, peaceful planning and peaceful co-parenting. Although there are many alternatives to co-parenting, separated couples can win at post-divorce parenting by keeping it professional and making their children the focus. There’s no reason why your “now what?” can’t end happily.