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8 Components of Happy Parenting After Divorce

Focus on the kids

Keep in mind that your only job now is to be a parent, whether your children live with you all or part of the time, and that the kids did not choose this situation.   Make them feel loved and secure and that it is ok for them to have an equally close relationship with the other parent.   You may want to avoid any topics of conversation with your former spouse that are not kid-related, figure out whether email or voicemail works best to avoid misunderstandings between the adults, and agree that the children come before your selves.

Do your part

Keep your commitments for support, custody, etc. And show up for kid-related events, teacher conferences, etc. Be as involved, or more involved, than you were when you lived together. This will show your children and your ex that you are trustworthy and reliable. If the other person is not doing his or her part, act to keep the children safe and financially supported, but otherwise, let it go.   Actions speak louder than words.

Start from scratch – get to know the other as a new person

As you make the transition from being in a relationship to being single, your ex is doing the same thing. Each of you may rediscover old interests, or find new activities and talents.   Some people find that they make very good friends and co-parents but were not suited to be married to each other. While that may not happen in every case, if you believe it is possible it may happen in your case.

Get some help – deal with old baggage

Everyone needs to process the myriad emotions related to divorce out loud. A friend or support group may be all you need to get through it and gain perspective on the situation. Many men and women find professional advice helpful. A session, or series of them, with a counselor or therapist can help you see what is unique to your situation and what is common to most or all relationship break-ups. This helps you to leave the past in the past, and gives you more energy to focus on the present and future. 

Own your part – what was your part in the break-up, what was not?

If you know how you contributed to the breakup, that it was not entirely the fault of either spouse, then you can build a new relationship as co-parents. If you can tell the other person what your part was (but not what their part was), that gains bonus points. This will also help give your new relationships a better chance of working out and it will provide a healthy model for your children.

Why and Because

If you can use these, many misunderstandings will be avoided. I want to do this because ___. Why do you believe ___ is a good idea?

Be open to new people in your life and the other’s life

Your children may have step-siblings or half-siblings that are new to their life, or your divorce may have divided them. Be sensitive to this and make sure to include all the people your child sees as family. This may extend to helping care for children that are not actually related to you but are siblings to your child. In addition, there may be a step parent (some families call this a “bonus mom” or “bonus dad”). Process your feelings privately with a trusted friend but welcome the new spouse to the team.

Respond, don’t react

When you get new information, take some time to think it through before saying anything. Maybe your first answer is a request for more information. For example, your ex tells you she is moving. Ask her calmly where, why, for how long, and what potential solutions she has already come up with for the kids. It may not be as big a problem as it sounded at first. You may be close to a compromise already. And you have gathered information that will be valuable if you do need to fight about it later.

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