When parents get divorced, children often feel sad, anxious and sometimes, angry. If your children are young, they may have a hard time understanding what is happening. You likely are experiencing feelings of guilt and concern. You want what is best for your children, and you want to make the transition as easy as possible.
Creating a child custody plan that focuses on your children’s needs and avoids conflict between you and your ex can help ease the transition. Here are some ways to create a shared custody arrangement that can work well for both you and your children.
Put your children first
Most parents try to put their children first, but this can become difficult when you are going through a divorce. You are likely dealing with feelings of sadness and anger and could become distracted by these feelings. Even if you are upset with your ex, you need to be able to put your ego aside and focus on doing what is best for your children.
Do not badmouth your former spouse
As you are going through a divorce, it may be tempting to say negative things about your former spouse to your children. You should avoid doing this because it will be confusing and possibly hurtful for your children. Try to remember your children still love their other parent, so you should refrain from speaking out against him or her. It could also escalate into a competition between you and your former partner, and then your children will be caught in the middle.
Consider the logistics of everyone’s commitments
If you work long hours, it may not make sense for you to pick up your children from school every day. Or perhaps your home is closer to your children’s schools, so it would be easier for them to stay with you during the week. Your children may have a babysitter or daycare person they are used to. Try to consider all these things as you are creating your schedule. Make a plan that works with your commitments, your ex’s commitments and allows your children to keep as much continuity as possible. Remember, there is no winning or losing, so make decisions that will work for everyone.
Think about asking your children’s opinions
You may want to ask older children for input into the custody agreement. They may have preferences that you and your former spouse should consider. Involving them could help ease some of the anxiety and anger they may be feeling. Keep in mind that you do not have to agree to what they suggest, but also try not to be hurt if your children say they would prefer to spend more time with your spouse. Their opinions may change over time, and you should allow them to express what they are feeling.
Accommodate your children’s unique needs
Other than school and after school activities, your children may also have unique needs to consider. Perhaps your child has only ever lived in one home and is terrified of sleeping elsewhere. To get through the initial transition, maybe your child should continue to sleep at the family home. You and your spouse could switch off staying there, or maybe your child will only spend days with the parent no longer living in family home. Consider what is best for each child and work with your former spouse to come up with possible solutions.
Review the arrangement periodically
After you and your ex have settled on a custody arrangement, do not think this will remain the same forever. As your children grow, their needs and schedules are likely to change. You and your former spouse may also change jobs, homes or schedules. Realize that these changes are inevitable, and plan to meet with your former spouse periodically to see what is working and what is no longer working.
Creating a custody agreement can be challenging. However, if you and your former partner work together, try to set aside your egos and keep your children’s best interests in mind, you should be able to settle on an arrangement that works for everyone.