No matter the age of your children, your divorce is going to be hard for them to handle. Younger children may struggle to understand the changes in the family, while older children and teenagers may understand just enough to become angry or resentful without knowing the details of what happened in your relationship.
Unless your family has unusual circumstances, it is likely that you and your ex will find yourselves sharing custody in the future. There are some important tips that can help you keep things as stable as possible for your kids.
Don’t let the kids wind up in the middle
You need to do your best not to complain about each other in front of the children or get into fights in front of the children. You want to shield the kids from any negative emotions you have toward one another.
Instead of showing them how divided you are, focus on the positives about their relationship with your ex and encourage them to feel excited about spending time with their other parent. Your children shouldn’t need to hear your side of the story, nor should they witness you and your ex getting into loud arguments, even on the phone. Basically, don’t make your kids feel like they have to choose between you.
Prioritize good communication with rules in place
You and your ex need to keep one another fully informed about what you do while you have the children and any important information that the children share with you, such as a conflict they had at school.
At least at first, when emotions may still be elevated, you might want to share most of this communication in neutral, written form. You can use direct email or text message, provided that you can keep calm. Otherwise, you might consider using a facilitated custody communication program.
Find a way to agree on how to communicate disagreements and conflicts so that you don’t have to involve the children.
Speaking of rules, make sure that you share them at both houses
Consistency and structure are both critical to the success and development of children. Having a stable routine and lifestyle at one house can wind up completely undermined if the other parent doesn’t follow the same schedule or apply the same rules. You really need to standardize your approach to parenting, from discipline to screen time.
Try to find a way to move past your marriage
Given that you share children, you are going to have to see one another frequently, not just until your children become adults, but throughout the rest of your lives. You’re both going to want to be there at the birth and later birthday parties for grandkids. The same will be true for weddings, graduations, sporting events and so much more.
Give yourself time to process your feelings and consider getting help from therapy or support groups so that you can find a healthy and positive way to relate to your ex as you move forward as co-parents with shared custody.