It has been 12 1/2 years since my divorce. As with any divorce, you have a deluge of emotions that come at you. Sadness, Anger, Disappointment and even relief in some cases. But, when you have a child and you go through a divorce? A lot of your emotions are for your child. You want to make sure they are ok. That both parents love them still, even if they are no longer in love with one another. When my son’s father and I decided to separate, I admit, it was a surprise. I never thought I’d end up divorced and a single mom. But my first statement was, “We need to be there for him. We need to put him first before our own feelings.” Here are some tips on co-parenting after a divorce from myself, who I count as an expert on the topic:
- Put the Child First: Whenever you make a decision, make it with the child in mind. Not with the mindset of how best to make your ex’s life miserable. Regardless of how you feel about one another, your child is a product of you. If they feel you don’t like their other parent, they are going to think you don’t like them. Because they are also part of that other person.
- Watch What You Say: You absolutely must be careful in what you say about your child’s other parent in front of your child. There are various reasons for this:
- The child WILL repeat what was said in front of them to the other parent.
- The child will feel any attack on the other parent is an attack on them.
- If the child continually hears disparaging remarks about a parent, after the long-term, they may feel it’s ok to make such remarks and feel the same way. (THIS IS CONSIDERED PARENTAL ALIENATION).
- Joint Forces: My son’s father and I always went to parent-teacher conferences together. The teachers never knew we were even divorced because of how we interacted with one another in the meetings. And when I said I would make sure he got the correspondence as we were divorced, the looks were always the same. Then the compliments of being able to put aside differences. They explained they would have parents they had to schedule separate meetings for because they couldn’t be in the same room together.
- Have Each Other’s Back: Just because you are no longer married and living in the same household. You are still parents. You want your child to be happy, but you also want to make sure they understand they are not going to get away with things just because it happens at one house. I’ve had to ask my son’s father talk with my son about his behavior and attitude with me. He would only act a certain way with me and I admit, it was DRAINING. So I’d reach out to the ex and ask for his help.
- Never Make Your Child Feel Like a Visitor: One of the rules I had was that our son was not to bring back and forth a suitcase. He had to have all his clothing at both places for a seamless transition. Now that he’s a teen, it’s different. He has certain clothing he likes and will take back and forth. But he never feels like a visitor. He’s got everything else he needs at both homes. At one point, even had two laptops.
- Be Friendly, If Not Friends: My son chose to go to high school closer to where his father lives. I sold my home and moved so I didn’t have to be a weekend mom. By moving closer to his father, I left behind my support system. So, my son’s father is now, occasionally, my support system. When I went on vacation last year, he would bring my son to our place to get my mail and to check on our cat. When I came to Tennessee with our son for the Solar Eclipse event this week, he agreed to be the emergency contact for my landlord in case anything went wrong. I was sick one-day last year and couldn’t take our son to a Dr’s appt. He took our son and also stopped at the store to get me ginger ale. I know it’s a lot of him doing things for me, but I haven’t had the chance to do for him as he has a support system up here. He is married and his in-laws live close by. So they can help.
These are just some tips on co-parenting after a divorce that can help your child. That is what it’s mostly about. Your child coming first. Now, I understand that there are extenuating circumstances that may not allow for this. Abuse, Abandonment, and Legal (i.e. parent put in jail, etc.) And I get that you may not be happy with the divorce or how it came about. But if that’s the case, rant to your family and friends. But never let your child know your true feelings. Again, they may take that as you feel the same way about them as you do the parent.