[I] love how curious kids are. It’s one of the things that makes them so utterly infectious, seeing the world through completely unbiased and unfiltered eyes as they navigate this and that, and ask questions that have us parents furiously rattling our brains to come up with the right answer.
Usually, these questions are amazingly harmless. Why is the sky blue? Why does it rain? How come I have to wear a coat in the snow? Why did you call me Sacha when I was born? Why was I born? It’s all valid and wonderful. But then, every so often, you get caught out by a question that’s a little trickier to answer. The reason I mention this is because I recently got asked why some parents don’t stay married forever. Not an easy question to answer, but a lot easier than the follow-up question: how do a mommy and daddy that don’t love each other anymore still parent together?
Of course, I could have just wrapped this answer in cotton wool, and to an extent I did. But I also wanted to know more about it myself, to help others that may be in this exact situation and feeling a little lost. That’s why I went and asked a few friends that have nailed the co-parenting thing.
So, without further ado, here are the lessons I have learned since getting blindsided by one of the most amazingly astute questions I have ever been asked. Hopefully, they will help you no matter what stage you are at post-split.
1. Co-Parenting in Peace: Make Your Separation Amicable
Remaining amicable afterward is no easy feat. There are always issues that need to be resolved. But it’s important to do all you can to get back on good terms so that you can move on with efficiently and lovingly co-parent your kids the best you can. To get to this stage there are a few things you can do, but it all starts with your divorce proceedings. You want to use a law firm that you can trust and get on with, professionals that don’t intimidate in fancy suits and big desks, professionals like those at Aviso Law. But don’t stop there. Get mediation too, and see a couples therapist that can help you boost your empathy for the sake of your children. The more effort you can put into this part of the proceedings the quicker you will be able to move on with co-parenting.
2. Kids Are So Awesome And Resilient
One of the things that struck us most was hearing just how incredibly hardy kids are. And perceptive. And adaptable. The reason we’re telling you this is because it can be the most terrifying thing to think you are messing your kids around or messing them up. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can chop and change things whenever it suits you. Now more than ever, kids need to have some sort of structure and routine in their lives because it will help them feel grounded at a pretty odd time. That said, you don’t need to be losing sleep over what will happen to their confidence and happiness and ability to achieve because it seems kids are amazing at adapting, bounce-back and, yes, even thriving, so long as you keep their interests at the forefront of everything.
3. Co-Parenting in Peace: Let Kids Adapt At Their Own Pace
You might be wishing your kids could adapt to the changing circumstance quicker than they are, but there is no point in trying to force them to adapt any quicker. You just have to let them get there at their own speed – naturally. Just like with us adults, kids need time to work through things and accept what has happened, and how it happened. Your job is to be there for them and to support them, not try and make separated life seem super-awesome by making it seem overly-rosy. So while you think it’s a good idea to make their new bedroom the best thing ever and taking them on loads of long weekend trips is good, your kids won’t feel any more comfortable about things and your Ex will just resent you more. The simple truth is: it will take them time to settle into this new situation. All you can do is accept there is a period of change and it will take as long as it takes.
4. Have Nothing But Nice Things To Say
After a separation, nothing gets more negatively affected than the communication between you and your ex. Nothing. That’s why it is so natural to want to pass messages to them via your children. Don’t. Ever. It’s not fair on your little ones. Not only that, but it’s not their role to play. You are their parent and you need to teach them how to be the best person they can and to forever talk with respect of others, and there is no more important scenario than this. Trust us: the best thing you can possibly do is speak respectfully of – and to – your ex, even if the only motivation to do so is the benefit of your kids. It will stop any animosity brewing, prevent something horrible being relayed and stop them from building their own agenda in the aftermath of a separation.
5. Co-Parenting in Peace: Your Kids Want You To Be Happy
Kids are super-perceptive, incredibly emotional and wonderfully sympathetic, which is why their only concern is your happiness. They will recognize the good decision you made in separating if it means the fighting is replaced by individual happiness and friendship. But that’s not all. They will also make the link that the happier you are in yourself, the better you are at parenting them (and with a smile too). You love your children unconditionally and they reciprocate that. They love you and that means they want you to pursue your own happiness too. Who knows, there may even come a time when they start offering you dating advice. It happens.
Co-parenting is by no means the norm within separated couples, but it is totally possible if you want it to work and, yes, you should want it to work. For them.
Contributed post. Feature image via unSplash.