If you have children, the relationship between you and your spouse does not end with divorce. Regardless of custody or visitation arrangements, children deserve the love, support, and presence of both parents in their lives. A divorce does not alter the reality that the responsibility of meeting your child’s needs belong to both you and your ex. Difficult though it may be, you and your child’s other parent will need to maintain, at minimum, a cooperative coexistence in order to provide appropriate parental relationships that will benefit your child throughout his or her life.
Advice for divorced parents is everywhere, usually focused on things you must absolutely NEVER do. Unfortunately, lists of maxims are typically oversimplified, and often, many of these ‘self-help’ articles lack constructive alternatives to the actions they decry. The challenge, obviously, is that no two post-divorce family situations are identical. Each case carries a unique set of circumstances and factors which must be considered when discussing coparenting details.
Whatever your situation, the most important characteristic of post-divorce parenting can be simplified to a single word: communication. Edward Kruk, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of British Columbia and contributing writer to Psychology Today, offers some guidelines that can help divorced parents make the best of their new family dynamic. While they address a wide range of family issues, it is hardly surprising that many of his principles require the ability and determination to communicate.
Communicate with Your Child
Your child may need to be reassured, or in some cases convinced, that you are still his or her parent and that he or she is loved. If possible, you and your ex-spouse can talk to the child together, which serves to demonstrate the commitment both of you have made to your child, despite the divorce. Allow and even encourage your child to safely express emotions such as anger, confusion, and fear, reminding him or her that such feelings are not only valid, but a healthy part of the process.
When talking with your child about the other parent, it is important to be positive and supportive. Try to keep any lingering contentiousness away from the child, as being caught in the middle can make him or her extremely uncomfortable and may lead to resistance in adapting to your family’s new reality.
Communicate with Your Ex
If you have a shared custody arrangement, you likely have pick-ups and drop-offs to schedule, school functions to attend, and family holidays to consider. This means that you and the other parent need to maintain some level of communication, even if just to ensure your child is never left stranded at soccer practice. Text messages and emails provide a useful alternative to phone calls and in-person conversations if direct interaction is still too strained between you and your ex.
Keeping lines of communication with your ex is also necessary to make sure you are both kept abreast of your child’s growth and evolving needs. You should be able to discuss issues with the other parent related to progress or behavior in school, medical issues, or emotional concern you may have regarding your child. Be sure, however, not to limit your communications to worries or needed improvements; instead, be able to share your child’s accomplishments and positive experiences with your ex as well.
Communicate with Your Support System
Keeping yourself happy and healthy can have a significant positive impact on your child’s well-being. Seeing you struggle with the situation can cause your child undue stress, while seeing you with a positive outlook and living well can be reassuring. A strong support system, such as family, friends, and, when necessary, a professional counselor, can be vital in your progress. Try to become comfortable sharing your concerns or needs appropriately and accepting feedback from those you trust. Online resources and support groups may be reasonable first steps in building a support system, especially if you find that a degree of anonymity is initially more comfortable.
Communicate with Your Lawyer
If you are a divorce parent in Illinois and are seeking a modification to your child custody or visitation order, we can help. Contact an experienced Kane County, IL family law attorney today. At Van Larson Law, P.C., we understand the law and will work with you to provide the best possible outcome for you and your children.