From the moment our first child is born, we begin a journey like no other—parenting. We have ideas about how we want to raise our children and utopian dreams of being calm, patient, and communicative parents. We quickly learn how hard and complex parenting can be.
Parenting has a steep learning curve, and we try our hardest to be the best parent we can be. So when you decide to file for divorce, one of the first places your mind will go is, “can children be happy after their parents divorce?”
Parenting after divorce can be especially challenging, but with cooperation, communication, and a little self-control, you and your ex can find a path to co-parent successfully.
Create a Parenting Plan
Successful co-parenting is two-fold…on one hand, we must learn to work collaboratively with our ex, and on the other hand, we must be able to meet our children’s needs and care for them through this challenging time.
Coming together and creating a parenting plan will require communicating and cooperating with your ex and possibly learning a new level of self-control. Keep in mind that you both want what’s in the best interest of your children while communicating about how to move forward as a family.
An effective parenting plan ensures your children are not only getting their basic needs met by both parents, but that they are being supported emotionally. Being mindful of the toll your divorce can take on their mental health while creating your parenting plan can help co-parents prioritize their children.
Tips for Creating a Successful Parenting Plan
- Decide together to create a healthy co-parenting relationship with your children’s best interests as your top priority.
- Decide what is in the best interest of your children regarding child custody decisions. Will you have joint custody arrangements? Or sole physical and legal custody?
- Create a parenting schedule that works best for everyone. Consider using a co-parenting app to keep track of your parenting calendar. Don’t forget to include school vacations, special dates, and holidays.
- Create a plan for how, when, and where parental communications will take place. If you find talking to your ex in person difficult, email or texting may be a good option.
- Decide how pick-ups and drop-offs will work.
- Set clear rules and expectations for both households that are inline with your shared parenting style.
- Decide how the children will be held accountable for their actions and remain consistent with upholding the rules.
- Discuss how you will address important decisions regarding health care, education, academic performance, sports, etc.
Communication: The Foundation of Successful Co-Parenting
Communicate with your co-parent using the agreed upon methods. Some parents communicate through email because it is private and keeps little ears away from adult conversations.
Email or texting may also be best if it is too soon or too difficult to speak with your ex on the phone or in person due to raw emotions. It’s okay to disengage from your ex to allow time for you to heal and build strength. Relying on the parenting plan to get you through the beginning stages of life after divorce may give you the time you need to process the divorce and figure out how you’ll be moving forward with your life.
How You Communicate with Your Co-Parent Matters
Speak with integrity. If you want to cultivate a healthy co-parenting relationship, speaking with integrity to and about your ex is essential. When you speak to each other in front of the kids, they will pick up on animosity, sarcasm, and passive aggressive tones.
By speaking in a polite and respectful manner to each other, you’ll show your children that they come first. You will also be modeling how to move through a difficult situation in a positive manner. This is a skill we all need throughout every area of our lives.
If you see and speak to your ex during pick up and drop off times, keep communications concise and to the point.
Be Respectful of Each Other’s Time
Schedule a time to have a bi-weekly or monthly co-parent check-in. Use this time to discuss what the kids have going on over the next few weeks or months.
Things You Might Need to Communicate with Your Co-Parent About
- Schedule Changes
- Children’s Appointments
- Extra Curricular Activities
- Health Care
- Medical Insurance
- Child-Related Expenses
When it comes to co-parenting communications, one of the best things you can do is never communicate through your children. Avoid sending messages to your ex through the kids because it places them in the middle of your conflict, causing emotional distress.
Communicating with your co-parent through your children will only manifest unhealthy outcomes for your kids and your co-parenting relationship. It can also put unnecessary responsibility on them that is meant for adults, leading to miscommunication. Bottom line…leave the adult communication to the adults.
Cooperation: Cooperative Co-Parenting is in Everyone’s Best Interest
Being a cooperative co-parent makes for a healthy family atmosphere. We all want our children to thrive. Whether your kids are at your house or your ex’s, you want them to be healthy and happy.
Putting the kids first means trying your best to be cooperative with each other.
Tips for Cooperative Co-Parenting
- Be reliable: If you are supposed to pick up the kids at 5 o’clock, your kids and your ex should be able to depend on you being there at 5’ o’clock.
- Be respectful
- Honor your commitments
- Stick to the parenting plan
- Don’t make your kids choose sides
- Don’t ask the kids to spy on your ex for you (ie: don’t ask them endless questions about your ex’s life).
- Be consistent with expectations and boundaries for each other and the kids
- Be a good listener for your children and co-parent
- Try your best to be fair when negotiating with your co-parent
The Art of Self Control When Co-Parenting
Going through a divorce can be an emotional rollercoaster. Tensions may be high and it’s easy to be reactive when talking to your ex. Taking time to care for yourself will help you maintain self control.
Self Care = Self Control
- Take time to exercise, even if it’s just taking the dog for a walk around the block.
- Facemasks, baths, and mani-pedis work wonders for calming nerves.
- Read a self-help book or get lost in a novel you’ve been dying to read.
- Have child-like fun with your kids. Create opportunities for joy—fly a kite, jump in the lake, blow bubbles—whatever it takes…have some fun with the kids.
- Take time to pursue your favorite hobby.
- Spend time with friends you can laugh with.
For the sake of your mental health, and the sake of your children, trying your best to care for yourself may help you maintain self control and will make co-parenting life a whole lot easier for everyone.
Are you looking to get a fast, uncontested divorce in Virginia? The Virginia Divorce Center can help you get divorced fast, with no court appearance necessary.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Can my divorce lawyer include our custody arrangement in our Separation and Property Settlement Agreement?
A: Yes, our divorce attorneys can include the details of your custody arrangement in the Separation and Property Settlement Agreement.
Q: How long do divorce cases take before they are finalized?
A: The Virginia Divorce Center specializes in expediting the divorce process, with the option of a 2-week divorce or a 5-week divorce.
Q: What is the biggest struggle with co-parenting?
A: Consistency. Your children are relying on the both of you to be good parents. After divorce, consistency is crucial for the children. They need to feel safe as they transition to life after their parents divorce, so being consistent helps them know what to expect in this uncharted territory.