When you first get a divorce, you have to get accustomed to a “new normal” in more ways than one: Your finances are going to be different. Your housing will likely change. Your work situation may change. And if you’re a parent, everything will change there. Suddenly, you may not see your children every day and you’ll have to make the best of it.
The idea of co-parenting with your soon-to-be ex-spouse may strike fear in your heart. You may be thinking, “How am I going to handle it? How are the kids going to handle it? Can we work together while divorced even though we couldn’t do it while married? Can we protect our kids from the negative effects of divorce?”
Co-parenting with a former spouse may have its challenges, but it doesn’t have to. What you both must remember is that your children deserve to have not one, but two loving parents actively involved in their lives. For this reason alone, it’s important that you and your spouse focus on having a healthy co-parenting relationship.
Here’s our advice on establishing a healthy co-parenting relationship from the day you decide to get a divorce:
- Respect your spouse. When you do this, it alleviates a lot of the stress of divorce and in effect it reduces the negative effects on the children.
- Be flexible with your spouse. This means work together scheduling-wise and honor and respect each other’s wishes as much as possible (assuming the wishes are reasonable).
- Live close to your former spouse. This makes drop-offs and pick-ups much easieron everybody.
- Establish mutual (you both agree to the terms) guidelines about dating; for example, no dating until the divorce is over, or no introducing dates to the kids until you’ve dated the person for six months, or no dating on your night with the kids.
- Don’t bag on your spouse on social media, period. It’s counterproductive before, during and after the divorce.
- Even if you don’t like your spouse, foster a healthy co-parenting relationship with him or her – it’s best for the kids.
- When your former spouse begins a relationship with someone special, be kind and respectful to the new boyfriend or girlfriend.
- Help your child celebrate their other parent on your ex’s birthday, Mother’s or Father’s Day, and on Christmas, even if it’s just a handmade gift or card. They are still your child’s parent and you don’t want your child to feel bad because they didn’t get to show their appreciation on special occasions.
- When you send or return your children to your former spouse, make sure they are clean, rested, and fed.
- Do not limit telephone access between your child and their other parent.
- Get your former spouse to help you maintain rituals, such as bedtime, homework, and extra-curricular activities.
Related: Best Advice for Divorcing Parents