p>Most parents want what’s best for their children. However, this desire may conflict with divorced parents’ difficult feelings-in particular, their feelings of anger and resentment toward each other.
It’s normal to experience such feelings after a divorce. But if you have shared or joint custody of your kids, proceed carefully with those feelings. Otherwise, you risk hurting your children further.
To create a positive co-parenting arrangement, follow the seven tips listed below.
1. Remember, It’s Not About You
Even if your divorce was fairly amicable, you may struggle over which ex-spouse spends more time with the children. If you have a tough time deciding on a fair schedule, talk to a lawyer who understands joint custody agreements.
Also, remember that you’re creating a new relationship with your ex. If you need to, approach your ex as a business partner. Speak with respect and don’t equate listening with approval. Converse about children’s needs only. View each partner as a co-parent whose primary task is helping kids feel safe and loved. Every other concern is secondary.
Once you recognize that your family’s needs are bigger than your own, you may find it easier to set aside your resentment.
2. Vent the Right Way
Even though divorce is hard on everyone, it’s most confusing for children. While you work through your feelings of anger and resentment, make a goal to vent only to adults, outside of children’s hearing.
You should also consider keeping a journal. Journal writing can act as a release for you, but it can also help you plan for your children’s future. And don’t forget to ask children what they’re feeling. Sit down with them, comfort their fears, and allow them to vent their frustrations. Help them see any benefits in their new schedule, and maybe you’ll begin to see some benefits as well.
3. Stick With Familiar Traditions When Possible
Try your best to find comforting rituals and traditions during this transition time. If one parent lives too far away to regularly attend all soccer games, enlist the help of a favorite uncle or friend to come along. Surround your children with familiar people and situations whenever possible.
For example, if you always have movie night on Fridays, stick with the routine. If some traditions are too painful to follow, ask your kids to help you come up with a new tradition that will comfort them while they adjust to new circumstances.
4. Don’t Bad-Mouth Your Ex-Spouse
When you feel angry or frustrated, your natural inclination might be to argue the issue-even in front of your kids. However, resist this temptation as much as possible. The less you say negative remarks about your ex-spouse, the better your children will feel.
After all, kids deserve a good relationship with both parents. Don’t sour your children’s views by complaining about your ex in their hearing.
Likewise, avoid relaying messages to your ex via your children. You have the ability to e-mail, text, or call your ex-spouse. Your kids should never have to act as arbitrators between parents.
5. Learn Effective Stress-Relief Strategies
Both kids and their parents can benefit from healthy outlets during a divorce. You might set up stress signals that others can react to by using a code word or physical gesture. Decide that if a situation gets too stressful or difficult, another person can say the code word or use the agreed gesture.
Once you realize that your stress is high, observe your breathing patterns. Remind yourself to breathe slowly and diaphragmatically. Watch your belly expand on inhalation and collapse during exhalation. Allow your muscles to soften.
Find friends who will listen attentively, and make them an emergency contact for stressful moments. Or, you might close your eyes and imagine a calm or soothing scene. You can also speak to a counselor if you have one.
Keep up your exercise routine during stressful times. Go for a brisk walk, or join a yoga class that teaches you how to accept your physical as well as emotional limits.
6. Choose Your Battles
No matter if you face a difficult conversation with your ex or a tantrum by your five-year-old, remember that not all battles are worth your energy. Decide ahead of time that one imperfect resolution doesn’t mean either parent is a bad parent. One childish outburst doesn’t mean your five-year-old is headed for long-term behavioral problems.
Be realistic, and cut others a little slack. Stress and arguments are hard on everyone, not just you. Let it go whenever you can.
7. Ask for Legal Help
Some challenges might be too difficult to resolve on your own. If you can’t resolve a scheduling agreement, or if you suspect your joint-custody agreement has disguised a lower child-support payment, talk to your lawyer.
Also, remember that not all situations merit joint custody. Your legal advocates can help you know your options if joint custody doesn’t work well for your children. Don’t be afraid to ask for legal help when you need it.
By following these common-sense tips after a divorce, you help the whole family adjust better to even the most challenging circumstances. Be patient, and you’ll find your new routine easier to follow over time.