Going through a divorce is often stressful and complicated. Adding children to that scenario adds another level of issues and considerations that must be taken into account in order to get your family successfully into this new phase of your life. Using these tips, however, can help you move into this new phase as successfully and painlessly as possible.
This first tip is one I try to remind myself often in many aspects of my life. It is so important it applies to many things we do every single day. Here it is, ask yourself “What is my goal?”. It sounds condescendingly simple, but can be a crucial mindset change that can make a massive impact on your life during and after your divorce.
In a divorce, it is easy to get caught up in the high emotions and the human need to make ourselves feel better about the situation. Because of this, our gut reaction can make us behave in a way that is actually counterproductive to what we really want to achieve. Next time you are in such a situation and those emotions get high, try thinking about what it is you want to achieve and what actions you can take to get yourself there.
For example, imagine Parent 1 has a rule that the children are not allowed to have more than 1 hour of screen time per day because the children get wrapped up in their favorite screen time activity and as a result, they are behind in their homework. When the kids were at Parent 2’s house Parent 2 allowed them to have 4 hours of screen time, but the kids got their homework done. Parent 1 is likely to be annoyed the kids have a rule in their house that is entirely different at Parent 2’s house. This might lead Parent 1 to fight with Parent 2 on the pros and cons regarding how much screen time the kids are allowed, and why Parent 1 thinks it is important for the kids to have consistent rules in both houses.
The goal of Parent 1, however, was to ensure the kids got their homework done and this goal was still accomplished at Parent 2’s house despite the extra screen time. Parent 1 may still be irritated with Parent 2, and still may want to yell at them about how Parent 2 is not being what Parent 1 views as a good parent. If they think about the situation from the perspective of their goal, however, they may be able to have a more meaningful conversation with Parent 1, or even avoid the conversation all together if they decide it really is not worth the potential conflict.
If coparents can think of whatever situation they are in from the perspective of what goal they are trying to achieve, it can not only can help them make better choices regarding how they deal with their coparent, but it may just save them some time and energy.
When you are a divorced parent, at some point you have to figure out a way to get along with your Ex because you will likely have to deal with that person for the rest of your life in one capacity or another. You are likely going to have to work with your Ex on a ton of different issues involving your children including school, extra-curricular activities, schedules, and medical needs. Since your Ex is going to be a significant part of your kids’ lives, that means they are still a part of your life. Whether you like it or not.
One thing that can help make your life as a coparent easier is decent communication with your Ex. This does not mean you have to understand each other, agree, or even like each other. At its core, good communication is simply the ability to actively listen to what the other person is saying and thoughtfully respond. This is another thing that sounds annoyingly simple but can easily get lost in translation in everyday life. Good communication with your Ex can be the difference between a screaming match and a conversation where you both agree to disagree. If you master the art of decent communication with your Ex, the chances are you will be much happier because you will feel more understood and so will your Ex.
Another tip to getting you through your divorce and successfully navigating your life as a coparent is simple. Be kind.
Be kind to your kids because going through this divorce is hard on them too. Navigating this new life between two parents and houses is a lot for anyone to deal with, especially those whose brains are still developing.
Be kind to your Ex because it will make things better for you. Your Ex may not deserve your kindness, but you do. You aren’t being kind for their sake, you are being kind to them for your sake. Coming from a place of kindness instead of anger is generally going to get you more of what you want out of your separation, divorce and life as a coparent.
During the divorce process, and throughout your life as a coparent, you are going to find many opportunities to find fault with your Ex. Some things, however, cannot be undone and there can be long term repercussions to our actions. Don’t burn the house down (figuratively and literally). Don’t do or say anything now that you can’t undo. It might feel better to yell at your Ex and seek your version of revenge right now, but how will it feel tomorrow? And how will your life be impacted by those actions? Some actions can negatively affect you in the future, and that good revenge feeling will pass leaving you with only the negative feelings that caused you to want to act that way to begin with. And you likely now have a host of other issues and complications that are the result of your words and actions.
Be kind to yourself because divorce is hard, and you deserve a little grace. You aren’t going to do everything perfectly, and that is okay. No one is perfect, and everyone messes it up sometimes.