- Accept your new role as a co-parent.
You may no longer choose to be with your children’s mother/father, but that does not have to mean that you are bitter enemies. It is crucial to create a strong line of separation between your identity as your spouse’s partner, and your role as a mother or father of your children. This is much more difficult to execute in reality because you may still harbor feelings of anger, bitterness, or animosity toward your spouse.
You may need to have a discussion or two in which you both agree to put aside differences and partner in the parenting of your children. It is important to remember that you and your ex are bound forever to your offspring and need to take the mature approach that you will be parenting partners for life.
- Establish a reasonable schedule.
Once the thorny problems of child custody, parenting time, and support have been addressed and resolved, you will have a solid foundation on which to build a schedule for your youngsters that includes both times spent with you and time spent with your ex. This is critical, especially when the parents are divorcing and the children are feeling particularly exposed. The less upheaval there is in your children’s lives, the better they will recover and adjust to their new situation. You and your ex should get into a reasonable, mutually agreed-upon routine and stick to it.
- Do not speak negatively of your ex in front of your children.
They are already overwhelmed and likely reeling from the trauma of the divorce. They do not need to hear from either of you, about how bad the other has been. Exes should never use their kids as pawns or weapons against each other. Kids are very egocentric and will often unrealistically assume that the divorce is somehow because of them or something they did, like breaking mom’s favorite glass or getting a bad grade in school.
These feelings and anxieties can increase if they hear you badmouth your ex, and it can make them feel conflicted about wanting to see them. They may think things like, “Mommy doesn’t like daddy. Will she be mad at me if I want to visit him”?
Communicate immediately and often with your children to get a sense of how they are feeling, and keep your feelings about your ex as private as possible. There is nothing wrong with saying that you and daddy/mommy are mad at each other or are having trouble working out some issues. But never use that time to win over your child to your side or make them feel the way you do about their other parent.
Make sure you reiterate that grown-up problems are very different from child problems and that nothing they said or did could ever cause mommy or daddy to break up. Communicate your love for them in different ways. Make sure to spend quality time with them. Children can be extremely vulnerable during the process of divorce. You may see them acting out or having trouble sleeping. This leads to the fourth point.
- Get professional counseling.
Whether or not you have ever been divorced, and especially if it violates your belief system or your religion has strong convictions against it, you definitely will need to see a professional counselor. Divorce can have evoked some very powerful feelings and can even define a person’s standing within their family or the broader social order. In fact, even before you and your ex ever made the firm decision to call it quits, family counseling and/ or marriage therapy should have been both discussed and pursued.
If you are feeling frustrated because of something your ex has said or done, or because of the sheer stress and exhaustion a decision to divorce brings, and you need to vent, avail yourself of the resources accessible for divorced couples. Often, the act of heading to divorce court, or even filling out the divorce application itself will cause the reality to sink in, causing feelings of guilt, anger, and even depression. Getting counseling is key to navigating this period of your life successfully. You can get free advice and affordable service from experienced family lawyers to assist you in plotting a fair co-parenting plan, managing finances, and agreeing on child support for a peaceful separation.
- Give yourself and your ex time to recover and heal.
Divorce can leave you reeling and even cause you to question if you are worthy of love. If you do not deal with the potent and potentially dangerous feelings that come from being divorced, you could spiral into behavior that is not healthy. People who are recently divorced may experience shame, depression, loneliness, and intense feelings of guilt. This can affect your relationships, job performance, and especially your ability to co-parent with your ex.
It may seem contradictory, but being a successful co-parent may mean taking time for yourself. During the healing process, make sure to cultivate positive relationships with people. Take up a hobby, like art. Learn to play an instrument. Join a fitness club. These are all healthy outlets for the flood of intense and overwhelming emotions that are sure to inundate you. You will then have a safety valve for these feelings, allowing you to return to your best self. Remember, you were a whole person before you married.
You will return to a state of normalcy and though your marriage did not work out, your family still can. Co-parenting isn’t about you, your ex, or what could have been. It’s about your children and what still can be.