During a live chat with Kim Iverson on her nationally syndicated radio show “Your Time With Kim,” I offered some tips on what it takes to create the best living situation for children when parent’s split up.
Figuring out how to take care of children after you separate is perhaps one of the most stressful aspects of divorce. However, when decisions about your children’s future get handed over to the legal system, without a doubt children will suffer. In order to stay in control of how life changes for your children, keep the following tips in mind.
Avoid a cookie cutter approach to life after divorce.
One of the biggest mistakes I see parents make is instead of making a plan that fits their children’s lives, they try to make their children lives fit a plan.
Do your best to base decisions around your CHILDREN’S needs. What works for one family might not work for you. Before developing arrangements, think about what life was like for your kids BEFORE the divorce.
Ask yourself, how will you maintain your child’s active relationship with both parents? How will you provide them with flexible structure?
For example, if Dad took Billy to baseball practice every Tuesday and Thursday then he should continue doing that. If Mom picks up the kids every afternoon because Dad works till 6 o’clock, do your best to maintain those routines and connections for your kids.
It may also help to put things into perspective and take a look at the big picture. How will the choices you are making today affect your children’s lives one year from now, five years from now?
Bottom line: Think outside the box. Don’t limit your options to court based solutions
Support a two home concept
Children benefit MOST when they feel connected to BOTH homes. Don’t talk about one home as their “real” home and the other household as a place to visit. If you can’t provide your children with their own room then create a special space where they can keep their things and find them when they’re with you.
It’s also important to avoid using legalese, ditch words like visit, visitation, custody, possession residential parent non-residential parent etc. Instead talk about time with Mom, time with Dad, Mom’s house, Dad’s house and instead of custody arrangements use phrases like parenting schedules or parenting time.
Don’t be a broker of time
Arrangements should NOT be about fairly dividing the hours and
minutes of your children’s day-to-day lives.
Avoid focusing exclusively on how much time Johnny is spending with you, instead put your energy into thinking about how you will make Johnny’s time with you meaningful.
Parent often ask me if sharing equal time between homes is a good idea. My answer is usually that depends. Equal time in each household is not going to help your kids if they are living in the middle of a war zone.
The key to success is developing a relationship with your ex that places CHILDREN as the TOP priority. That means having good communication skills and the ability to be flexible with one another.
–>Can you share information about school events and activities,
–>Can you talk to each other without arguing in front of the kids or being cold and stand-offish.
–>Are you willing to live in the same community to make things easier for your kids?
–>Will you be flexible with one another?
These are some of the factors that will dictate whether sharing equal time is good for kids.
Really anything is possible when parents are able to let their feelings about each other take backseat to making life work for their kids.
What tips do you have for parenting together while living apart?