Some things we've learned over the years...
5 Best Practices for Divorcing Parents
Maybe you've been divorced for years or maybe you're just starting the process; but if your divorce involves children, you are writing the story that they will tell - to partners, therapists, friends - for years to come. Experts (and the courts!) agree that committing to the following "Best Practices" will help that story be a positive one:
1. Minimize conflict.
Conflict in divorce is natural. Unfortunately, this conflict can destabilize a child's environment. Commit to minimizing conflict by agreeing not to fight in front of the children and to resolve issues through mediation instead of litigation.
2. Avoid casting the other parent in negative light.
Regardless of your personal feelings about your ex, they remain your child's parent. Be respectful of that relationship by avoiding the urge to demonize the other parent or denigrate the love and affection they have for your child. If you cannot bear to say something nice, at least keep it neutral.
3. Maintain a united front.
Rules may differ between households, but maintaining a united front regarding the need to respect the other parent's rules at their home adds some consistency to your co-parenting relationship that is comforting to your child.
4. Give your child space.
You're not the only ones going through the divorce. Your child is too. Allow your child space to adjust to their new family situation: space for gathering their thoughts through journaling, therapy, or quiet time, privacy when they're communicating with your ex (no eavesdropping or interrogating the child about phone conversations) and the freedom to experience their own feelings about the situation.
5. Be flexible.
The most successful co-parents are flexible co-parents. Life happens - and that may require changes to schedules and plans. Offering good will in the form of flexibility to meet the other parents requests for schedule changes yields good will to your requests. Being respectful of the other parent's time by keeping requests for changes to a minimum further builds good will.
Brianna Zielke is a former litigator who has been mediating divorces since 2003.