You and your spouse may not agree on much anymore, but one thing you do agree on is that your children are very much a priority – especially as you approach a divorce.
While there’s no way to entirely eliminate the stress of your divorce from your children’s lives, you can take steps to mitigate the fallout.
1. Keep the focus on your children’s needs
As you make the transition from spouse to co-parents, it’s important to take a critical look at the apparent or emerging needs of your children, whether those are emotional, physical, psychological or financial. This can also give you a new “common ground” on which to build a good co-parenting relationship.
2. Stay visible, stay present and remain kind
Kids need both their parents present to cheer them on and celebrate important milestones – so encourage each other to show up to every band concert, play, parent-teacher conference and sports game. While you and your spouse may no longer be a couple, you’re still a team, and you have the privilege of raising the children together.
3. Embrace the gift of an extended family
Don’t let your divorce affect the relationship your kids have with their extended family members. They can provide a valuable sense of continuity and support for your children. Although it may feel awkward at first, make sure that you encourage grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other involved relatives to come around, call and stay connected to the kids.
4. Work with your co-parent on all major decisions
Children thrive on routines and stability, so you need to work with your co-parent to try to establish predictable routines that the kids can follow at both houses. You and your co-parent also need to be equally involved in major decisions, such as when it comes time to choose your child’s school, medical care or religious instruction.
5. Consider mediation, arbitration or a collaborative process for your divorce.
Research says that parental conflict during (or after) a divorce is more detrimental to child development than the divorce itself. Instead of fighting everything out through litigation, aim for a cooperative approach and conscious uncoupling. Mediation, arbitration and collaborative law are all good alternatives.
An effective parenting plan that is customized to your family’s unique needs can help create a framework you can use moving forward.