There can be a lot of pain after a divorce. Your not sure exactly what you should be doing and how you should be doing it. For most I believe it is probably a feeling of defeat even if it was something that needed to happen. With all the whirlwind of getting a divorce and figuring out the details there is one little problem that comes up for both of you. How do we take care of the kids?
Now for some this might be easy and others pretty difficult. I was fortunate to have a very calm and easy divorce when it came to money, housing, things, etc. But the kids, we both wanted them full time and I knew that was not going to be reasonable. The first thought we had was nesting. You’ve probably heard of this idea where the kids live in one home and the parents switch in and out on a weekly basis. For me that did not seem like the best idea as personally I did not what to part-time a house with my Ex. So co-parenting, which seems to be the buzz word for our generation, came into play. We started with two homes close to each and that has been the best solution for us over the last 6 years.
We have learned some lessons though when it comes to co-parenting and I want to offer a couple of suggestions that might make things easier for you.
1.) The schedule can be difficult to master until everyone is comfortable. We started with a M/T/W and then we would switch for TH/F/S/Sun. schedule flipping it each week. At first, it sounded like a good idea but our kids actually asked for a week on, a week off solution because it was too much for them during the week. Listening to them, the last 3 years have been perfected which was a win/win for the entire family.
2.) As parents we communicate constantly. My Ex and I text daily about the positives, negatives, and anything in-between when it comes to our kids. Being on the same page, our kids have figured out we are together as one for them. Yes, when they get in trouble we both know, but there are positives too like if they do something fun or have an accomplishment by send pics, texts, etc. There is no playing each parent off of each other which is vital to keeping consistency.
3.) When it comes to gifts (Bday/Xmas) we work together giving from both of us. We do not play the “I can outdo you” games, seeing who can buy the better or biggest gifts. Every year we text back and forth about who is buying what along with keeping costs comparable. When it comes to big gifts, say an iPhone, we both have to agree and we gift it together. Again, the kids know we are working and sharing together for them.
4.) Communication is also key when your kids are not with you. I want to talk to my kids twice a day and using Facetime is the best solution, but text can work for smaller things too. Actually seeing their faces and emotions makes a big difference when you don’t have them for a week. We also assist each other making sure they are communicating with each parent using gentle reminders from us to our kids. Last a side note, we have a family text that we use for general things like doctor’s appointments, picture sharing, etc. This definitely provides further consistency between houses.
5.) Vacations are “okayed” between us before booking. We take turns each year taking them on a “big” vacation so not to spoil them. If I am taking them camping for two weeks, I will run it past my Ex for approval and then plan. This works both ways and we are flexible on ideas and vacations. So far there seems to be no jealousy about who takes a better vacation and it has worked out really good for both us and kids.
6.) Be organized with switching between homes. Making sure clothes are washed and the kids bags are pack knowing what they want and need. Clothes are spread between both homes and sometimes we have to run by the other house if something was forgotten or wanted. But having a packing list, for a bag, not a suitcase, they then have what they need for a quick transition. Why not a suitcase? Because that makes it to formal which kind of stressed them out. A light easy to carry bag made things simpler so they did not think they had to pack up their life before each switch.
These simple ideas can really make a difference in working in the co-parenting system. The biggest key as stated several times above is the communication between both parents. You have to put any animosity, anger, and resentment aside remembering this is about your kids and not about you or your Ex.