You no longer live with each other. You may not even like each other. But you are parents for life. The way you and your former partner behave around each other and your children can create a life of uncertainly and chaos, or a life of emotional stability and security.
What follows are a series of “tips” for how you and your partner can forge a path for your children to live with a sense of the latter — emotional stability and security. These suggestions are based on handling more than 1,000 divorce and separation cases during the past 34 years practicing law.
- Do not disparage or say negative things about the “other parent” in the presence of your children. While it is normal for a separated or divorced spouse to struggle with feelings of betrayal and anger, you should not expose your children to your beliefs about the other parent’s failing.
- Always demonstrate respect for the other parent. Give your children permission to have a “good time” at the other parent’s home and prepare them emotionally and physically for a positive custodial experience at the other parent’s home.
- Strive to keep open lines of communication between yourself and the other parent. Deal with the other parent in a business-like manner and look for ways to make communication about the children as amicable as possible. Ideas include scheduling a weekly status meeting via telephone or email, using online resources such as Our Family Wizard to facilitate communication, and establishing a joint family calendar to detail children’s activities, parent-teacher conferences, and other important dates.
- Be flexible and expect change.
- Be open to your children’s expressions of their own worries and concerns.
- Reassure your children that both parents love them and want them to succeed. Children want to know that Santa Claus will be able to find them, where they will live following the separation or a parent’s move, and where the family pets will live.
- Do not ever share negative feelings about the other parent with your children or in front of your children.
- Resist instructing the other parent how he or she should “parent” the children.
- Develop new family traditions and holiday celebrations if custody schedules require flexibility.
- If necessary, seek out a neutral third-party, such as the family counselor, to help facilitate the development of communication skills and tools for working with the other parent.
- Following separation, give your children the gift of having a strong, loving relationship with each of their parents.