Going through a divorce is hard on everyone, but the stress can be most acutely felt on children, who have to balance their family life with the challenges of school and social pressures. KidsHealth from Nemours says that if co-parenting and scheduling is handled maturely, it can teach children flexibility and tolerance, and strengthen problem-solving and coping skills. Jocelyn Block, M.A., and Melinda Smith, M.A., of Helpguide.org suggest thinking about this next phase as a completely different relationship that is solely about the benefit of your child. Being flexible with your child’s schedule is one clear way to make this new family situation work best for everyone.
Take turns taking your child to after school sports or activities. Give each parent a chance to spend time with the child and be supportive.
Be open to switching schedules with the other parent if needed. You may find yourself needing his help some time with a scheduling change, and your ex-spouse will be a lot more accommodating when you need the favor if you’ve done the same for him.
Rotate play dates and sleepovers with both parents if possible. Your child should feel he can invite friends to either house.
Make sure your child knows that both parents' homes are his. Enable your child to bring possessions back and forth from each house if he wants to.
Give holidays and special occasions equal time to each parent. Either split up the day or rotate which holidays and events you will spend with the child.
Tips & Warnings
- Always put your child’s needs and feelings first and foremost above everything else.
- Keep financial obligations and arrangements separate from visits with the child. The child should be able to spend equal amounts of time with each parent without having to worry about child support issues or money matters.
- Try not to cancel important events set up with your child unless it's an absolute emergency. Limit the number of emergencies you have. Be consistent and reliable for your child's sake.
- Communicate directly with the other parent regarding schedule changes or arrangements. Never put the child in the middle or ask the child to pass on messages.
- If you’re saying no to a scheduling change, make sure you’re not just vetoing it out of anger or spite. Try to be flexible and treat your ex-spouse the way you want to be treated.
- Get professional help through counseling or through legal mediation if there are problems in scheduling that cannot be reconciled amicably.
- Do not ask your child to choose with whom she wants to spend holidays or events. All custody and scheduling matters should be worked out between the parents, out of the child’s earshot.
- Do not disparage the other parent in front of your child.
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