It is common knowledge that divorce can and does have a detrimental impact on children. Dividing up holidays and shuffling children between households is a difficult task in itself, having to do so with someone whom you can’t stand makes it even more difficult.
Some studies have shown that having children spend equal time with each parent (shared residency) is a good way to help them cope. It is without a doubt best for children to have frequent and continuous contact with both parents. There are however situations where it would not be in the children’s best interest.
For shared residency (previously called custody) to work it is of utmost importance that both parents are cooperative, respectful, agree on shared-residency and manage their emotions well. When parents have these qualities it will make it all lot easier for the children to adjust to their new reality.
When it comes to co-parenting and shared residency there are a couple of rules to remember if you are going to make it work:
- Do not speak badly of your spouse to/in the presence of your children. Children tend to internalize everything that is said about the other parent as they are made up of both parents.
- Remember that the divorce was about you, but co-parenting is about the children. It is not about getting what you want or even demanding equity at any cost. Time with your child is a gift and not a prize to be won. Ego’s need to be set aside and parents should act in the best interest of their children at all times even if it does not feel good for the parent.
- Be realistic about your own schedule and commitments; don’t over commit just to prove a point.
- Choose a contact and care arrangement that accommodates your children’s ages, activities, and needs. Such an arrangement is dealt with in a Parenting Plan which is registered with the Family Advocate and/or made an order of court. Therefore there would be a remedy should either of the parents breach the terms of the Parenting Plan.
- Remember just because you feel like your spouse was a bad husband or wife does not make them a bad parent.
- For shared residency to work, communication is key. For the sake of your children and your own sanity, find a method of communication that will work for you and your ex. Whatsapp is a good option because conversations can be emailed to yourself for easy reference.
- Pick your battles and fight only for the things worth fighting for. Don’t sweat the little things.
- Let your child feel heard, let them have some input into the process, for instance with a toddler you can let them decide which toys they may want to take to the other parents home.
- Review your Parenting Plan as your children grow up and their needs change.
When creating a Parenting Plan, the following will be taken into consideration.
- Your children’s ages and personalities
- Your family schedule
- The career and social commitments of each parent
- The academic and extracurricular activities to which your children are committed
- Your child-care arrangements and the distance between the parents’ home.