We all make mistakes in bringing up our children – being a divorced parent can make parenting even more difficult. Sometimes being divorced brings out the worst in people and parents. But remember, while you are coming to terms with co-parenting, your children are watching you. Are you showing them what good parenting is all about?
No textbook can tell you exactly how to successfully co-parent your children. There are however a few small things that you can do to make it easier, from your ex-spouse’s perspective, and be a good parent in the eyes of your children.
Here are a few tips:
Although you decided to get divorced and will no longer be together “till death do us part” it doesn’t mean that you must forget everything you promised when you got married. You can still love and respect your ex-spouse as the parent of your children. Before you say negative things or act disrespectfully, try and remind yourself of what you promised, and attempt to approach your co-parenting with love and respect for your ex-spouse. Even if it is tough – be the adult in the eyes of your children.
When kids are little their Mom will be there world and Dad will be their hero. Don’t make them choose. You chose your ex-spouse to be the mother or father of your children. They take after the two of you. They will one day model their own relationships on you – so give the other parent credit where they deserve it. Compliment their Mom or Dad – even if they never hear the compliment! You are reassuring your children that they are allowed to love both of you equally.
Whatever you agreed on when reaching parenting agreements you have to adhere to. You are both equally responsible for raising your children. Pay the maintenance and have them for the weekend or the holidays. Do whatever the legal documents say you should. They are still your children and you are still 100% their Mom or Dad. Playing by the rules will also make co-parenting much easier and avoid future arguments.
Children need discipline and boundaries to feel safe and secure. When you have the children try and maintain the same structure they are used to at the other home. You don’t have to be the “cool” parent all the time. It is not fair for one parent to be the “strict” parent – the one who has to do all the school runs, oversee homework, clean the bedroom and do all the difficult parenting stuff, only for the other parent to abandon all discipline and routine over weekends to just be the “fun” parent. You are actually doing your children a disservice.
Attend their events – they still want and need you at the games, at the school concert, at the parent teacher meetings, doctor’s appointments and other events you would have attended if you didn’t get divorced. Not only do they want you there, but it also gives you the opportunity to be involved in their lives and in any decisions that have to be made about their lives. They will look out for you – be there!
Your children may need you to help them to make special days special. Go with them to buy a Mother’s or Father’s Day card. Remind and help them to do something special on birthdays - draw a picture or pick a flower. You are teaching them to make the other parent feel special and you are showing love and respect. It might be hard, but maybe you can also show appreciation by sending a message on Mother’s or Father’s Day – be that person.
Treat your ex-spouse with respect, even if you are not really on friendly terms. Greet each other and make small talk when in each other’s company - even if you only do it for the sake of the children. Let them know that you are still “family” even though you are divorced. It makes it easier for the children if you can be civil and treat each other with respect.
Married, separated or divorced, they are still your children and you are still their world and their hero – be a parent that they can look up to. By following a few basic rules, you and your ex-spouse will manage co-parenting with all its subtleties and complexities. It might not always be easy, but if you put your children first, you can and will be a successful divorced parent.