Sharing custody of your children is far from a walk in the park. From dividing up holidays to shuttling your kids back and forth between your homes, it can lead to some stressful moments. To make the situation as bearable as possible — both for you and your kids — consider the following tips:
Adults and children tend to do better with a predictable schedule. This is especially true for kids who spend time at both parents’ houses. It is important to come up with a custody arrangement that is ideal for your kids’ needs, activities and ages — and then stick to it. Yes, it can be tough to juggle extracurricular activities, your work schedules and child care issues, but it’s vital that you come up with a workable and predictable plan.
One schedule that works well for older kids who are busy with playdates, ball games and practices is called “2-2-5.” In this plan, the kids spend two days with mom, two days with dad and then alternating Fridays through Sundays between the parents. Post everything on calendars, so no one is confused about where they will be going.
Don’t Be Shy About Staying in Touch
It can be hard to say farewell to your kids, even for a couple days at a time. While you want your former spouse to have full responsibility and time with your kids, it doesn’t take away the fact that you will miss them. Let your kids know that you are always available to talk to them or to help them, even when they are at the other parent’s home.
Provide them with the tools to make this happen. Make sure your kids have a reliable smartphone, like the iPhone, and set up a time to check in with them through a quick FaceTime chat. Smartphones also are great tools for helping your kids with their homework — you can talk them through fourth grade math over the phone — or for talking through their day if they want to vent about something at school. And, of course, they may need to contact you if they forgot something important at your home.
Try to Parent as a Team
Even though your marriage didn’t work out, you and your former spouse can still make a great parenting team. Kids need to know that they are living with the same sets of rules and expectations, no matter which home they happen to be in at the time. While you may do certain minor things differently — for example, you might let your kids stay up a half hour later on weekends while your ex-spouse puts them to bed at the usual time — it’s important that as many things as possible are the same in both homes.
This also means making bigger decisions about your children together. For example, you should decide together if your daughter can attend band camp this summer and which school your son will attend. If your kids try to play one parent against the other, be clear that you are a united force and going behind your back to get the other parent to agree is not going to work.
Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life – Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.™ Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. Their answers can be random and in the moment or they can be aligned with the above article. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.
1. What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?
I have accepted that I might not always have a home that will qualify for a photo spread in a Martha Stewart magazine—there are toys spread around and plenty of other evidence that a family with pets lives here, but that is okay.
2. What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?
I appreciate the fact that I’m a loving and caring mom, wife and “pet parent” who focuses more on my family’s happiness and being there for them, rather than always having a dust-free piano.
3. What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What makes YOU most proud? What goals and dreams do you still have?
One of my most rewarding achievements has been working as a freelance writer for the past 16 years; I love the fact that I work from home and can schedule my work around my family.
4. We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth—we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are—your Identity?
I guess like many women I’m hoping to find ways to use my daily 24 hours as productively as possible; I love getting out to walk with my family and at least one dog at a time, but too often I run out of time. My not-so-perfect way is that I sometimes forget to take care of myself because I’m so busy taking care of others.
The quirks that create my identity…my silly sense of humor about a lot of things—my kids roll their eyes when I’m putting away groceries, spot a bunch of bananas and start talking into one of them like it’s a phone. My dependence on caffeine and love of Starbucks is also fairly well-known.
5. “I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!) Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?”
I love my family. Every day.