At Alternative Divorce Solutions, we assist couples in building parenting plans through divorce mediation every day. That being said, there are no two parenting plans we have built that are identical. This is because every parent is different and every child is different. Through our work in divorce mediation, we have helped hundreds of couples build customized plans that will help them co-parent in the long term. The key is in the structure of the plan. Building a parenting plan is part art and part science. The art portion is how to come up with creative solutions that work with both parents’ busy schedules and are best for the minor children involved. The science part is structuring the plan correctly so the parents can rely on it for years to come. Even with the best parenting plan in the world, however, you are still going to have to put some work into co-parenting. Your success or failure at co-parenting will depend on you. Here are the top 5 tips we have compiled that will help you along the way:
1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!
At Alternative Divorce Solutions, we are well aware that it is not easy to speak to your spouse after the divorce is final. Actually, it can be the exact opposite. No matter how friendly your divorce mediation was, there are still going to be feelings of sadness, anger, rejection, and more. However, in order to be successful as co-parents, you are going to have to learn to communicate differently than you did as spouses. Your children’s happiness depends on it. We usually suggest that our clients keep a shared calendar (on Google or some online platform) that will allow them to see the children’s extracurricular and school schedules. The parents can use this calendar to rely on when they are with the children to make sure the children don’t miss any important events. In addition, things can come up in parents’ lives. You and your ex-spouse can agree in divorce mediation how you will handle these matters and then document them in your shared calendar. If you don’t like the idea of the calendar, then you can stick to your schedule and then inform one another via text, telephone, or e-mail if you need to change things from time to time.
2. Always keep the best interests of your children in mind
It can be difficult to separate our emotions from the big picture sometimes. We see clients every day that have been hurt by one another in leaving their marriages. We can only imagine how hard it must be to have to co-parent after a divorce. However, perspective is very important here. When you make a decision (ex: whether to allow your children to go on a vacation with your ex-spouse) do so with your children’s best interests in mind. Is it good for your children to go on the vacation? Will it strengthen the bond with the other parent? If so, even if you are mad at your ex-spouse, you should let them go. Don’t let your feelings get in the way of what is best for your children.
3. Be consistent
Parenting is difficult even when spouses are still married. There are life events, work events, and unexpected things that will come up. With this in mind, you may have to make some sacrifices to the flexibility in your schedule once you start co-parenting. This means that you should really try to stick to the schedule you created through the divorce mediation process if possible. Again, if something comes up that you absolutely can’t avoid you can communicate with your ex-spouse and try to work through it. Just make an effort to work toward consistency because research shows it is best for your children.
4. Be respectful at exchanges
When parents drop their children off with their ex-spouse, it is possible that they are angry at that person for one reason or another. Despite this anger, it is very important to keep your composure while you are dropping your child off with your ex-spouse. Your child should have a good opinion of both parents and if that is not possible, they should be able to form their own opinion of each person when they reach the appropriate age. Negative or confrontational remarks in front of the child causes them stress. Your child is going through a lot during a divorce and unnecessary conflict only makes things harder.
5. No derogatory remarks
As difficult as this may be, you must avoid making negative remarks about your spouse in front of the children. Think about your own childhood and remember the time where you thought your parents were super human. They were able to handle everything and somehow make things “okay” when they went wrong. These feelings of safety and security are crucial to your children’s development in life. More importantly, since your child is technically made up of 50% you and 50% your spouse, saying mean things about the other parent will cause self esteem issues. Do your best to avoid this negativity.