A recent advice column by Ann Nagley in the Midland Daily News discusses the challenge of raising happy children while in the midst of a contentious divorce. Nagley has developed a special understanding of the issues facing divorced parents as an intake coordinator with Family and Children's Services in Midland, Michigan.
Parents have to adjust to a new role as co-parents while dealing with the pain of a dissolving marriage. The way children deal with divorce has much to do with the amount of conflict they witness their parents enduring. The following are tips on how to face the challenges of co-parenting, reduce the stress, and protect the kids along the way:
- Focus on the child: Your child should be free to continue loving both parents. Just because the person hurt you doesn't mean they are a bad parent. The relationship your child has with both their parents affects their future relationships. By saying hurtful things about the other parent or limiting time together you can cause your child to become distant from that parent. Children need to be left out of the conflict between you and your spouse and enjoy time separately with both parents.
- Take time for yourself: Divorce affects both spouses, the one leaving and the one getting left. Many people feel a mixture of sadness, anger, hurt and worry as a result. The emotional roller coaster can negatively impact not only you mental but physical health and, as a result, taking time to be alone and work through your thoughts is important. Having friends and family members for support can help you both as a person and as a parent.
- Have co-parenting meetings: When you both feel ready, a meeting between both parents can be held to discuss issues about your child. These meetings help your child deal with change and help keep consistency between the different houses. Meetings should be brief and focus on simple, positive things involving your child. These meetings should ideally be conducted over the phone rather than risk an eruption with an in person meeting. Topics to be addressed include schedule changes, upcoming special activities, academics and behavior problem. If you simply cannot interact alone with your ex, consider using a mediator for these occasional brief chats.
Co-parenting lasts a lifetime, and while it might not be enjoyable you should do your children a favor and get used to it now.
If you find yourself in the midst of a custody fight, you need the help of an experienced South Carolina family law attorney to help you through the complex process.