Co-parenting can be emotional for both parents. Sometimes this is way easier said than done, but you have to get along for the emotional health of your kids. Yes… it can be hard for some and easy for others, but again the bottom line of every divorce decision should have your kids’ interests in mind.
My Ex and I have a somewhat simple plan for co-parenting. Living relatively close the kids switch homes every week, usually on Friday or Sunday. But now with the COVID 19 shelter in place rules, things get a little harder. First, I am fortunate to have a second home up in the Tahoe area, which hopefully is my permanent home once the kids get to college! But when this pandemic hit weeks back I already had the kids for the week. After discussions with me Ex, we decided it would be safer for them to be up in Tahoe, so we left and I had them for another 2 weeks. So after three weeks with my kids, you can imagine they missed Mom and vice versa. Fortunately, my girlfriend had to head back to the bay area so she took them back to Moms. Wow, what a quiet week that was going from two tweens to just myself and my girlfriend. On Thursday, I checked in with the Ex to see if she wanted to switch back after the week or keep them longer. She wanted them another week, which I totally understood. Also, both my girls stated they would like to stay too. So easy right??
First, knowing and totally understanding the situation, I still felt hurt. Like, why did they not want to come back to me? Are things better their then here? Am I a total goofball dad that cannot relate to my girls? My girls need a schedule that is somewhat predictable, especially with all the news happening. So for weeks, we were scheduled from waking up, school, exercise, downtime, and dinner. But then you start second-guessing everything and wonder if I could have done something better? It can be emotional from going all kids all the time to no kids at no time! That is a huge downfall with divorce because the kids are really the ones that are affected by each and every decision. And the parents have to somewhat hide feelings because putting that on your kids is unfair.
Ok, so I talk it out to myself and again, totally get they are happy, healthy and with Mom. Then last night I get a Facetime call with tears in her eyes from my 15-year-old. “I want to come back, I just don’t want to hurt Mom’s feelings.” Oh boy, now everything I was feeling is now being pushed onto my Ex. Calmly I told her to get some rest and we can talk in the morning. This morning with both Mom and kids on Facetime, they state they want to come back. You see the emotional roller coaster happening here for both parents?
Co-parenting is the best way to raise your kids unless of course there is some type of abuse or drugs happening. But when divorcing with kids, you need to co-parent. Giving equal time to both parents because that last thing you want is for kids to play favorites OR play each parent off each other trying to manipulate what they want. Both parents have to, actually, NEED TO work together to provide a consistent amount of time between you both. Your kids have to understand that decisions like these are going to be made with both parents. Again above, first they wanted to stay, which we both discussed, and then they wanted to change homes, which again we all discussed. It is not easy, it is not simple and it is emotional.
So just a Quick Review on Making Co-Parenting Work
*Work together, without animosity, and figure out what works best for your kids.
*Figure out a schedule with an equal amount of time with each parent. This includes vacations too.
*Communicate to your kids along with listening to needs and wants. My kids are older and becoming more opinionated, but you have to keep each other (parents) informed.
*Co-parenting means sameness. Dad is not the party parent and Mom is not the crackdown parent (or vice versa). Both parents have to be consistent and communicate throughout the week/days/hours even depending on the situation.
*In today’s world of iPhones/texting, take pictures of your kids doing fun things and share them between a group family text. For example, my kids standing next to a waterfall, I take a pic, text to everyone. Mom does the same for me too.
Now the last thing I am going to say, and this can be hard sometimes, is that you have to be yourself. Just as if you were still married and all in the same house. Becoming “Super-Dad” and being all fun and games is not fair to the other parent. Both parents have to keep their personalities as before, but working together, you need to raise your kids like normal…if that makes any sense? Basically be yourself and in the end, my guess is my kids, along with yours, will love you for who you are as a parent.