The transition from one household and one family unit to two households and two family units can be difficult – especially after a contentious divorce. For months, the energy has focused on ending a relationship. Then, all of the sudden, you are expected to perfectly transition to beginning a new relationship. The emotions and physical changes are stressful, and how these changes are initially dealt with can have lifelong impacts on you and your children. Here are some tips to help ensure that the transition is a smooth one –
#1 Focus on starting a new relationship with your ex-spouse. Your marriage is over, but you still have children and years of co-parenting ahead. It can be helpful to think of your new relationship as a business relationship. All communications and encounters should be conducted with a business mindset. For instance, if you would not send your proposed email to your boss, do not send the email to your ex-spouse. Using this method will help keep painful past emotions from creeping into the picture.
#2 Talk to someone else about what you are feeling. Turn to a friend, a family member or a mental health professional, rather than your ex-spouse to express your thoughts and frustrations about life after divorce. A third party can offer a neutral perspective and help you work through your emotions. Unloading any bottled up anger on your ex-spouse will only cause problems.
#3 Never use your children as messengers. Not only do the courts look unfavorably upon this type of behavior, but as you can imagine, it is damaging to children. Saying hurtful or negative things about your ex-spouse in front of your child creates unnecessary stress and anxiety for your child. Children should be able to freely and unconditionally love both parents. Even small things that seem harmless, such as “remind dad to sign the permission slip” should be avoided. Your children should not be expected to coordinate the transitional details from one household to two households.
#4 Focus on the big picture. Save your energy for the bigger battles that truly impact your children. If your daughter did not have a green vegetable with her dinner on Tuesday night, and she normally has a green vegetable at your house, don’t sweat it. Let it go. Focus on the big picture - your child is being provided with food, shelter and love. Let the small stuff go.
#5 Use technology. There are a variety of computer programs and/or applications that can assist with organizing your two households. For instance, Google Docs is an online application that allows you and your ex-spouse to post messages to one another, view calendars, create financial spreadsheets, etc. Programs like Google Docs eliminate impulsive remarks to your ex-spouse, help to maintain the business-like relationship you are striving to achieve, and help to avoid using your children as messengers.
#6 Be patient, be persistent. Remember that both you and your ex-spouse are entering new territory. It is imperative that you remain patient with one another during this time of change. Remain persistent at your effort to cooperate – it will pay off, eventually.
An unavoidable result of a divorce is the creation of two, distinct households. The transition to this arrangement with children may seem impossible at first glance, but if you are able to implement any of the above tips, you and your family will certainly benefit.