Sharing custody is such an emotional topic. I am the product of a court-ordered shared custody plan, I have to share my own kids with the other parent and I am also a step-parent. I could literally speak to personal experience from every angle. I would first like to admit that sharing custody of my kids is one of, if not the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Share my children with the person that I no longer share my life with? Are you kidding me???
No matter how unhappy I was about the prospect as soon the gavel hit the bench eight years ago my reality was, in fact, that I would have to share my kids.
During that time through years of trial and error I have learned 10 tips to making the best of a very emotionally charged situation.
It is NOT about YOU!!!
First and foremost you have to take your personal feelings out of the equation. Just because your marriage or relationship ended it didn’t end the relationship that your kid(s) have with their other parent. You are going to do what you have been ordered by the courts to do because your kiddo needs quality time with both parents. After all it wasn’t your kid(s) that had any say in your now broken relationship.
Do NOT involve your child in “adult” conversation or conflict.
Your child should never be your ear to vent about the other parent. Kids are not emotionally equipped to handle adult problems. They don’t understand why you are angry and they shouldn’t even know that you are. If you need to talk about the other parent find a friend, call your mom… Not your kiddo! They are also not the communication mediator. Don’t ask your kids to tell the other parent information you should relaying yourself.
Do not speak ill of the other parent.
Your little one is watching, listening and absorbing everything. Regardless of how much hurt and pain the other parent has caused you your child still loves them and those feelings shouldn’t be swayed because you are angry and/or bitter. Keep it in and tell your BFF later when your sweet kiddo’s ears are far far away.
Find at least one effective way to communicate with the other parent.
If you can still effectively communicate in person that is great but for most of us that’s not always best. In my case we only communicate through email because it is all documented if questions arise. It allows us a neutral ground where no one can actually hear the raised voice on the other end. It also allows time to carefully think out what is being said.
Try your best to always be civil while your kids are around.
It makes a noticeable difference in the child’s well-being when his/her parents can both be at the school play without feeling the tension between them. Your kid is excited about their two lines and silly song lyrics. Don’t ruin it for them by shooting daggers from your eyes at the other parent sitting several seats away. A quick smile and a hello will put you all more at ease.
Involve the other parent in the kid’s activities.
It is nearly impossible these days to have your child involved in a sport or extracurricular activity if you don’t have the cooperation of both parents. Tell the other parent that you want to sign up your kid for soccer but practice is on Thursdays which is one of the other parent’s days. Ask if they mind. Offer to take your kid to practice and they can pick-up. Make sure all parties are notified of games, performances, ceremonies etc.
Share in the education experience.
A major sign that a child is stressed out is a sudden change in grades and/or behavior at school. If a teacher or administrator is concerned about your kid involve the other parent. Share report cards or the website to check grades. Collectively celebrate good grades and behavior. Disperse the responsibility of helping with homework.
Allow the child access to the other parent and vice versa.
When my kids are away from me my heart aches and I miss them dearly. Can you imagine how much they are missing you too? It might be hard to believe but they also miss their other parent when they are away from them. Let your kiddos call or text them or even go spend a few hours with them. It can mend their little, broken hearts and bring smiles to their once sad faces.
This is not a game to win.
Kids are sensitive creatures. They feel every emotion with all that they have and if you are treating custody as a game that you must win, you are going to hurt the one(s) you claim to be fighting for most. Let go of the desire to beat the other parent and remember who truly matters in end.
You can only control your own behaviors. Take the high road.
Lastly, but probably one of the toughest lessons I have learned is that no matter how hard you try you can only control your own behaviors. If the other side refuses to cooperate you simply have to swallow your pride and do your best. Take the high road and never allow your self-control to be compromised because of the other parent’s behavior.
When my parents divorced I heard them speak about how one didn’t like the other because of this or that reason. Thirty years later I don’t remember what any of those reasons were but I do remember that my parents didn’t always say the nicest things. I remember how they did treat and speak of the other one. It had a profound impact on me as a child.
Now as a parent myself that is sharing custody I never wanted my kids to have to experience the same pain and guilt that I did. They should never feel guilty or question themselves for the decision we, their parents, made to separate. Therefore remaining as civil as humanly possible was the only decision. I’m not always perfect and I definitely falter from time to time but I admit my mistake and get back on track. I do this because in the end it is what is absolutely best for my kids!