It is nearing the end of summer and for divorced parents, that often means a change in schedules. Specifically, who has the kids on what day of the week. Conversations around co-parenting can turn contentious. Carrie Little from Family & Children’s Services stopped by GDGC with advice on keeping it cordial. Most people don’t like change – so negative reactions to schedule changes aren’t that surprising. But expressing negativity can hurt the kids, you say.
That’s right. Too often, parents fight over the details of who-gets-the-kids-when and forget to focus on what is really important: the child’s needs and feelings. They’ll express things like, “You are getting more time than I am,” or “You are inconveniencing me.” What kids hear when their parents say those things are, “I am a lot of trouble for my parents.” It damages their self-esteem and their security in their parents’ love for them. What advice would you give to a parent in this situation?
Be mindful. The messages you give to your ex frequently are internalized by your child. Kids feel a part of both parents. When negative remarks are made about mom or dad, the child often feels responsible and that those remarks apply to him also.What are some concrete things parents who share custody can do to make this as easy and stress-free as possible for all involved?
Any last advice?
- Be courteous and have children ready and transferred on time. If plans must be changed, call the other parent as soon as possible.
- Avoid using pick-up and drop-off times to engage in any type of conflict or to discuss any form of business with your ex.
- Don’t use your child as a messenger.
- Don’t ask your children about what is going on in your co-parent’s life.
- Take care in how you speak about the other parent to children. Occasionally say something positive about the other parent.
- Don’t allow family or friends to make negative comments about the child’s other parent.
- Make sure your child feels fully connected to your life.
- When your child is away, nurture yourself and get your adult needs met so that you can be a more effective parent.
When your child is visiting you, consider strongly making it be for and about you and your child alone. Make it special. That doesn’t mean buying things or taking extravagant trips. Take time to just BE with your child. Talk. Laugh. Remember to slow down and appreciate those times that you can build a relationship. Family & Children’s Services has a number of classes to help people manage relationships in their lives and offers individual, couples, family and group counseling too. For more information, call 918.587.9471.