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Our previous blog addressing why one should be “thankful for divorce” brilliantly touched on the benefits that can be reaped by adults whose marriages ended in divorce.  (Addressing why divorce is something you can be thankful for.)   When dealing with the break-up of a marriage and/or long-term serious relationship when there are also children involved – “Successful Co-Parenting” is the next goal to achieve and something else to be thankful for.   And a necessity if you are truly dedicated to the best interests of your children and for them to grow up to be healthy, happy, functioning adults..….not to mention for you, yourself, to have sanity and maintain a healthy, happy life.

Yes, Virginia, a happy life can exist post-divorce.

Don’t get me wrong, divorce can suck, even on the road to being thankful.  But divorce doesn’t have to be the end of the world or ruin the rest of your life……or ruin the rest of your children’s lives.  As a child of divorce, having been through a divorce with a very young child and now working as a family law paralegal – one of the most crucial things I witness not being done by the adults is…..drumroll….properly grieving the divorce/demise of the relationship and then moving on.  Divorce is the end of a relationship.  Divorce is the end of parenting children together while living in the same household.  Divorce does not have to be the end of harmonious, healthy communication and providing a great childhood for the children.

Yes, Virginia, children can and do survive parents divorcing.

No matter what you are feeling due to the divorce – sadness, anger, hurt, mistruth – those feelings must be allowed to be accepted, embraced, felt and properly grieved….then accept, let go and move on.  The problem is some people, not all, get stuck on whatever feelings the divorce brought about – sadness, anger, hurt, mistrust.  Then instead of moving on, embracing your new role as a co-parent and being able to function as co-parents, it becomes dysfunctional because the parent(s) are stuck and still poking at each other , which then prohibits healthy co-parenting and a healthy, happy environment for the children.

Yes, Virginia, children of divorce can still exist in happy environments.

So post-divorce, your focus as a parent should be on the children and continuing to give them happy parents who are still providing them with stability.  Holidays are another thing parents get stuck on, obsess about – having to have the actual holiday with the children.  The reality is post-divorce, the children deserve time with both parents who happen to no longer live together. Holidays post-divorce are now just handled differently – and that’s ok!   Most holiday schedules either split the actual holiday up or rotate them each year.  Either way – focus on the quality time together with the children celebrating the holiday and the meaning.  It’s ok if you celebrate Easter before or after; if Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve or after December 25th.  The children want time with their parents enjoying the holidays and associated traditions – they don’t care what date it is.  Start new traditions that aren’t necessarily the norm – that also helps with the moving forward process.

Yes, Virginia, holidays can still be great post-breakup and make for good memories for the children.

And last, but not least, communication between co-parents is also difficult at times and good communication with your co-parent can be tough to master.  You are now still having to communicate with someone that has maybe broken your heart or shattered your idea of what you thought your life was going to be.  You are the adult and can move on – the children are children and still deserve to have a nice childhood with their two parents, who now happen to no longer be a couple.  So learn how to communicate effectively with your co-parent and without letting it become another tool to continue to engage with them in an unhealthy manner.  And do not use the children to communicate with your co-parent or put them in the middle of communications that should only be between the two parents.  Children should not be used as carrier pigeons between the two households. You only have to communicate about topics related to the children; short and sweet; no judgments; no personal attacks.  You can even choose to only communicate in writing.

Yes, Virginia, divorced parents can communicate with each other to take care of the children without creating unnecessary chaos.

It is going to be ok post-divorce:  time heals and you and everyone involved can and will have a great life…including the children.  Remember – you can’t always control what happens to you, but you definitely can control how you react.  And how you react can and will lead to peace, how your children react….and successful co-parenting.

Yes, Virginia, peace can exist post-divorce.    

Co-Parenting & Communication Nice and Naughty List

Nice (To do) List:

  • In the beginning – if it’s too difficult to see your co-parent in person – arrange exchanges to occur at daycare/schools; use honk and seatbelt rule if children are old enough.
  • Keep communications in writing (use Our Family Wizard or talkingparent apps)
  • Be cordial
  • Be short and sweet
  • Stay on point with the communication subject matter
  • Be understanding if co-parent can’t do something you are requesting (especially if it is not the norm or last-minute; i.e. change exchange time or location; pick up from school; take to an appointment)  don’t take it personal if your co-parent can’t do something you are asking
  • Keep your co-parent in the loop on everything having to do with the children (i.e. school information; appointments scheduled; extracurricular and events)
  • Discuss major issues involving the children with your co-parent to make decisions together (i.e. schools to attend; medical issues; extracurricular/sports to do) [don’t unilaterally make decisions then tell your co-parent “this is what the child will be doing” – you wouldn’t like it if your co-parent did this to you]
  • Remember your children’s items (clothes, school supplies, toys) are the children’s and not yours or the co-parents (doesn’t matter whose house things are at – they should be there for the children) [don’t let the children’s belongings become another thing to argue about]
  • Be flexible and willing to compromise

Naughty (To do) list:

  • No name-calling towards co-parent; co-parent significant other/spouse; co-parent family members
  • No personal attacks
  • No dictating to your co-parent
  • No controlling (dictating how other parent should do things at his/her house regarding the children)
  • No threatening (if you don’t do this…..you won’t be able to see the children; I won’t pay child support)

Tools to help achieve post-divorce peace and effective co-parenting:

  • Huffington Post website and/or Facebook pages have great articles, advice (divorce, parenting and women sections)
  • Blogs for surviving divorce; successful co-parenting; being a single parent
  • Talk/Vent with friends, family….do not vent to your children or your ex/co-parent
  • Get support from friends, family, church, therapy, books
  • Keep yourself busy when your children are with your co-parent; do something for yourself – practice self-care