Divorce isn’t easy, and neither are the painful readjustments that accompany it. Transitions and visitation are difficult — emotionally, mentally, and logistically. Co-parenting can get especially tricky when young children are involved, as you and your ex will need to work together closely to ensure your child’s needs are met. We’ve highlighted a few pieces of crucial co-parenting advice below, so you and your ex can make the best possible decisions concerning your child’s happiness, visitation, transitions, self-care, and more.
1. Acknowledge Your Child’s Feelings
Your child won’t always want to pack a bag and spend the weekend at his mother or father’s house. When this happens, acknowledge how difficult the process is for your child and lend an ear. Then, help nudge them into more positive territory by saying something like, “Your Mom loves and misses you so much, and I’m sure she has a lot of fun stuff planned for you two.”
Ask if there’s anything you can do to put their mind at ease. Sometimes, it’s as easy as packing a few things they’re missing at the other parent’s house.
2. Make Co-Parenting a Joint Effort
Whether you’re on good terms with your ex or not, you’ll need to make parenting decisions — and those decisions don’t end until the child is living on their own. If you can do this without bickering, you’ll both get much better results.
Agree on rules and discipline. Be as consistent as possible and respect the disciplinary measures carried out by the other parent. For example, if the other parent grounds the child, don’t allow them to go out when they visit you. Also, agree on a schedule, so your child can stick to a routine regardless of which roof they’re under.
3. Simplify Transitions & Visitation
Whether your child transitions from one household to the other every week or every few months, it’s likely not easy for them. They’re reunited with one parent but leaving the other, and for many children, it’s a bittersweet feeling. There are a few steps you and your ex can take to make the process easier for your child:
- Set Reminders: A couple of days before they leave, remind your child that they’re heading to the other parent’s house soon.
- Pack Ahead of Time: Help your younger child pack, so they’re ready to go when it’s time for them to leave. Encourage them to pack that stuffed animal they love or the photo of you two that they keep on their bedside table — but don’t push it.
- Set a Pick-Up/Drop-Off Schedule: Drop your child off at the other parent’s house, but don’t pick them up. Allow your ex to bring them home. This way, you won’t interrupt any bonding time.
4. Turn Loneliness into Productivity
Although it’s important for your child to spend quality time with both you and your ex, it’s natural to feel lonely in the interim. When your child is away, spend your time doing the things you love, such as reading, writing, biking, and catching up with friends. Consider the extra time to yourself a silver lining after the dissolution of marriage or civil union.
If your child is away for longer than a couple of days, find ways to keep in touch that won’t make the other parent feel like you’re infringing (and can actually be helpful), such as picking the child up after school and dropping them off.
5. Control Your Emotions
If your ex does something that upsets you, don’t involve your child. No one wants to hear negative comments about their parent, especially if those comments are being made by the other parent. Let your kid be a kid and don’t bog them down with past conflicts that took place between you and your ex.
Instead of immediately reacting with an angry phone call or text, keep a list of grievances with your ex. Update the list when you have a new grievance and check back in a few days. If it still upsets you, address it with them privately. If it’s no longer an issue, move on.
Get More Co-Parenting Advice from Conniff Law Offices
Conniff Law Offices is a reputable family law firm in Illinois, with offices in Chicago and Oak Park. If you’re seeking a divorce, or have questions about family law, contact us to schedule a consultation. Searching for fun things to do in Oak Park that will make visits with your children more memorable? Even in this area of expertise, our team is here to help. Take a look at our guide to start planning for your kids’ next visit today.