Sadly, the two of you have decided to split. In the old days, the baby would have been split too, in a sense. Divided between two warring households, children would be shuffled back and forth begrudgingly by parents who put them in the middle. Fortunately, children of divorce are now adults. They can now tell their story. What these adult children say to parents divorcing today is, “Stop! Act like adults!”
The word now is COPARENTING. When parents split up, they divorce each other but not their children. Parents are expected to formulate a parenting plan which affirms and supports the parenting role of each.
Like it or not, most of the time it is in your child’s best interest to maintain a deep bond with his or her other parent. Each parent has something unique and special to offer the child, and hopefully the two of you will figure out how you will appreciate having another adult to be part of the parenting team too.
Divorce is rough on everyone, but don’t make it more so by putting your children in the middle. While one parent will likely have primary physical custody, that parent needs to take affirmative steps to help the noncustodial parent maintain a strong bond. Similarly, the noncustodial parent needs to take special measures to keep in touch in ordinary, everyday ways and not just to become a “Santa Claus” equivalent.
Divorce is like a door that the family steps through. Relationships are redefined, but it it is merely a transition. Relationships continue. Get used to the idea that you will be coparenting for a long time. You will be attending school events, graduations, weddings. You will even share the same grandchildren. Find a way to make it work, and continue to parent your children wisely through divorce and beyond.
The following resources will help you and your soon-to-be ex formulate a parenting plan.
First of all, a child psychologist is an excellent investment. A typical scenario will involve an initial consultation in which the parents meet together with the psychologist, the psychologist meets individually with the children, then talks with the parents again. The psychologist can help everyone through the transition, help everyone understand what to expect, suggest age appropriate expectations for parenting and parenting plans. For about the same hourly rate as what you are paying your attorney or mediator. So first of all, get some expert advice rather than just relying on the “he said, she said” of opinions. It is well worth your while to invest some family resources into this type of guidance that will help both parents learn more about what is reasonable, establish reasonable expectations, and prevent trouble down the road.
There are also excellent resources available on the internet. An internet-based worksheet for parents working through decisions related to parenting plan, the web site UpToParents allows you to share goals, values, and vision with the other parent so that you can develop common themes. Click HERE
For a brochure about coparenting after divorce, click HERE
Sixty-eight page resource for developing a parenting plan, published by State of Arizona, click HERE
Age appropriate visitation guidelines, published by Missouri court system, click HERE
Scheduling “wizard” for coordination of parenting issues such as schedules, school records, medical records, etc., click HERE
And here is a 17 minute video with guidance, including interviews with n0w-adult children of divorce: