Divorcing when you have small kids can be so stressful that you barely have the ability to maintain your job, your household and your sanity. Even loving and devoted parents can become so fixated on their own struggles during a divorce that they don’t stop to think about the experience of their children.
Occasionally sitting down to refocus yourself mentally and ask yourself what your actions say about your internal priorities can help you avoid causing harm unintentionally to your children during this difficult time.
Trying to see things from your children’s perspective can make it easier for you to act in their best interests. There are at least three things that your kids wish you knew about co-parenting during a divorce.
1) I am listening even when you think I am not
If you and your ex managed to avoid getting into a full-fledged fight during a custody exchange, you may need to blow off some steam. Going up to your room, closing the door and calling your best friend to complain talk about how unfair the encounter was may seem like a way for you to relieve yourself of that stress without involving your children.
On the one hand, committing not to argue in front of the children or to telling them about your personal grievances is a good step. However, remember that children are naturally curious. They may knowingly violate your personal privacy during a divorce because the chaos makes them insecure.
Your kids might be listening outside of the door or going through your phone to look at text messages and emails. Save that negative energy for a time when your kids can’t overhear you and a format that neither they nor anyone else can screenshot.
2) I just want both parents cheering for me like all my friends have
Don’t get so focused on preserving your relationship with the kids that you cut your ex out and make them persona non grata at special events. While having one-on-one parenting time is important for your bond, having both parents there on special days and at special events is crucial for your child’s sense of attachment and social support.
If possible, you should commit to both being present and cooperating during sporting events, theatrical performances and other special days for your children.
3) I need consistency and structure, not another friend
Children and teenagers need support during a divorce, but that doesn’t mean you should coddle them. You need to set limitations and rules, rather than turning into a Disneyland parent who wants to be more a friend than a role model.
Instead of fighting to seem like the cooler parent, both of you should focus on keeping things consistent and normal for the kids. Agreeing on rules that you enforce in both households is crucial, as is open communication about the children’s behavior. Keeping things consistent will make life easier for everyone in a shared custody arrangement.