Becoming co-parents can be a strange transition, especially when there is tension remaining between you and your ex. Having a sense of how you want to parent and the boundaries you intend to maintain from the beginning can help you avoid conflict and minimize stress on your kids. Here are some considerations about setting your co-parenting goals and limits after divorce:
Goal #1: Don’t Berate the Other Parent
When children hear their parents speak ill of one another, it’s painful and harmful to them. Ideally, both of you can refrain from making snide and inappropriate comments about one another in the presence of your kids. Ultimately, you only have control over your own conduct. However, if your ex is making poor decisions, you can choose not to make hostile comments in return. When your kids know they can rely on you to take the high road and maintain a safe space where they don’t have to hear negative remarks, it can help them feel more secure.
Goal #2: Maintain a Consistent Schedule
In Wisconsin, the court will require parents to adhere to a placement schedule. Typically, a lot of thought goes into creating these plans, and they are carefully structured around the kids’ lives. Children need consistency, and changes to their schedules can be distressing. When parents don’t show up for placement time or make last-minute adjustments, it can send a message to the kids that they are not important. Do your best to stick to your children’s placement schedule. Making a rare exception is one thing, but if your ex tries to make frequent changes for his or her own convenience, hold them to the schedule.
Goal #3: Plan for the Holidays
Parenting on your own often means celebrating special occasions and holidays with your kids but without your ex. This is a time when your ex or former in-laws may try to request some of your holiday time in the name of family tradition. While there is nothing wrong with working with your ex to help your kids enjoy the holidays, some special dates and times may be sacred to you. It’s okay to set a limit and keep your kids to yourself on a holiday. Knowing how you want to handle holiday plans before they come up, can help you and your ex avoid unnecessary conflict.
Goal #4: Don’t Expect Perfection
After divorce, you may feel like you have to bend over backward to make your kids feel better about everything that has happened to their lives. Your children don’t need you to be perfect; they need you to love them and help them feel safe. You and your ex may make some mistakes as you get used to co-parenting, but when you try your best to be caring and supportive, your children will recognize and benefit from your efforts.