Divorce is becoming increasingly common. In the U.S. alone, more than 1 million couples file for divorce each year. The state of Washington has the 15th highest divorce rate in the country.
Divorce is a turbulent time for families – especially when kids are involved. But how you and your ex choose to co-parent can have marked effects on how your child responds to this major shift in their life. Here are three tips to helping that transition go smoothly:
- Stability helps engender the new normal: When deciding how to split co-parenting schedules, think about what your child is already used to – and not just what’s easiest logistically. If mom has always dropped off the kids at school, and dad has always picked them up from soccer practice, then maintaining these rituals can be valuable. They can help your child feel that some piece of their life is still the same as it was – which can be a comfort for a child going through a traumatic life change.
- Avoid bad mouthing: You may have good reason to be resentful towards your ex. But just because they may have been a bad spouse doesn’t mean they’re a bad parent. You and your spouse settled on joint custody for a reason: so that your child could have meaningful relationships with both parents. Talking badly about your ex in front of your child isn’t good for anyone. It can make your child feel guilty about the love they have toward their parent. It can also make them feel like they need to pick sides.
- Involve your child in decision making: Divorce is a decision that happens between parents, and often comes as a surprise to a child. Being told that your life is going to drastically change is a difficult pill to swallow, and this can make a child feel like they don’t have control over anything. Letting your preschooler choose which toys they want to take to dad’s house can give them a sense of ownership over the process. For teenage kids, consider involving them in choosing a custody schedule that works best with their extracurricular activities. Such steps can help your child feel like the transition is something they are an active part of – not just something that is happening to them.
Transitioning to a two-household family inevitably presents challenges. But by putting yourself in your child’s shoes, it can help you make the best co-parenting decisions possible.