Few things in life are as tough as divorce. When you plan to spend the rest of your life with someone, it hurts to break that life apart. There are likely fights, money issues, property issues, and much more going on at any given moment, and that is not even considering how it affects the kids. As a Reading, PA family law attorney, we have helped many people through the process of divorce and custody arrangements. It is often very stressful for both children and their parents adjusting to shared custody. To make things easier, we thought we would list some tips for preparing your kids for shared custody.
Put Them First
This probably sounds like frustrating advice to parents who are constantly doing just that. But even though you are dealing with stress, your child does not understand it. That is why it is so important to keep feelings of hurt and anger out of their purview. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t talk to them calmly about what is hurting you or making you angry, just that it shouldn’t come out as a reaction. Of course, this is parenting we are talking about, so reigning in emotions is never going to be 100 percent possible. Mistakes will happen, tempers will rise, etc. Perhaps one of the best ways to keep emotions in check is to have someone you trust who you can vent to (that isn’t your child), whether that be a doctor, a friend, or family member. The key is to never use the kids as messengers, have them present for altercations, or have to listen to a tirade regarding a loved one.
Divorce isn’t exactly the most civil of proceedings, and it can often be an antagonistic affair. Often, neither party wants anything to do with each other. When there are kids in the picture, however, those lines of communication must be maintained and built up. Here are some tips for keeping communication strong and civil.
- Keep Things Professional — Now that you are no longer intimate with your ex, it will help if you keep the tone of your conversations business like. By treating them with the same respect you would show a work colleague and keeping to the topic at hand, you can minimize any chance altercations arising.
- Make Requests, Not Commands — When speaking to the child’s other parent, be careful about the language you use. It is extremely easy to mistake a statement for a demand, especially when tensions are high. A little careful wording can keep a misunderstood statement from turning into a full blown fight.
- Communicate Often — Children learn by seeing, and there is nobody they emulate more than their parents. By keeping lines of communication open often, you convey the impression that you are parenting on a united front. On top of that, it teaches them how to appropriately deal with hard social situations without resorting to insults, fighting, or other undesirable behaviors.
- Establish Consistent Rules — Childhood is an important age for teaching discipline. Having two households with inconsistent rules can stunt this learning. While obviously no two households will have exactly the same rules, it is important to agree on the big ones: off limit activities, curfews, homework deadlines, etc.
Make Transitions Easy
The actual transition from one parent’s home to another can be very hard on children. Every reunion is also a separation, every hello a goodbye. Because of this, this is one of the most important times to provide a positive environment.
- Double Up — To make packing easier and provide a sense of permanence to your child, consider creating a “basics” kit that they can keep at both houses. For small children, make sure that any important stuffed animals or toys are also present at both houses.
- Drop Off, Don’t Pick Up — The dynamics of a family after divorce are different than when they’re together. You don’t want to interrupt any special moments between your child and their parent, or vice versa. The easiest way to avoid this is to drop off your kids to the others’ residence, rather than pick them up from there. This also streamlines the process, and keeps your time just between you and your child.
Hopefully these tips help if you are having trouble transitioning with your kids after a divorce. If you ever require a family law attorney in Reading, PA, Dutko Law is available to help. Feel free to give us a call if you have any questions.