15. Don’t use your children as your friends or confidants. Divorce is usually hard. Besides having your family split-up, you may have, also, lost friends during the divorce. Your children need you to be their parent, rather than someone whom they have to make feel alright. Do not cry on your children’s shoulders. That is not emotionally healthy for the children nor the parent. If you are lonely, then find an activity that you enjoy, and meet some new people. That is fun!
16. Be reasonable and flexible with possession of your children. Children are happier when they have frequent and free access to both parents - regardless of the formal written court’s order. If you and your ex can make agreements about when each of you will have possession of the children, then your children will benefit from that flexibility.
17. Do not imply that your children will be “missing out on fun” with you while they’re away visiting the other parent. And certainly don’t have your child ask the other parent if it would be okay to allow him or her to do something with you during the other parent’s time. Instead, talk to the child’s other parent, yourself, about the arrangement. And whatever the result of that conversation is, do not involve your child in that discussion. If you do, then the child will experience confusion or dislike for one or both parents. And, that will make your child unhappy.
18. If your child is young, then help him or her pack for visits. Get your child where he or she needs to be on time. Don’t let your actions communicate that you resent the time they spend with their other parent, nor that you do not respect the other parent. Remember, “Happy Children” is the goal here.
19. Both parents should provide a space in their home (a room, closet, shelf or drawer) where the children can keep their belongings undisturbed between visits. Make sure that there is a picture of the child’s other parent, and any siblings, prominently displayed there. This helps your child know that he or she is part of a loving family, and does not have to focus on only one-half of that family at a time.
20. Do not ask your children to serve as messengers or spies. Anytime children are asked to betray one parent to the other, the children will feel guilty. Since divorce engenders guilt feelings in children anyway, it’s cruel to set them up for more. It, also, puts them in a position of having to choose loyalties between parents, rather than feeling loved by, and loyal to, both parents.
21. If you are having a hard time co-parenting with an ex you can’t stand, try thinking of it as doing business with someone you don’t like. Stick to the task at hand, be polite, and don’t get personal.
22. Do not use pick-up and drop-off times as occasions to fight with your ex-spouse. If conflict seems unavoidable, try arranging weekend possession periods so that the non-custodial parent picks the children up from school on Friday afternoon and returns them to school on Monday morning. This plan will not only avoid conflicts, it will help the non-custodial parent get involved in the children’s school work.
23. If your ex-spouse attempts to engage you about something while your child is present, simply tell him or her that you will be glad to discuss that matter at an appropriate time, and that now is not the time. Usually, that will end the discussion. But if it doesn’t, then simply walk away. You are setting boundaries for yourself and your children by doing this. If your ex still won’t leave you alone then contact security or the police. Additional Court Orders may also need to be put into place.
Following these pointers, along with the others that I discussed in the earlier article, will help your children to find their happiness sooner than they might otherwise do so. And raising happy, healthy kids is our goal, as parents, right?