When parents divorce they often share custody of their children, which can be a challenging endeavor since it involves cooperation between two adults who typically have tension between them. However, joint custody can be the best way for children to stay close with both of their parents, especially if the parents are willing to put their children's needs first.
Setting rules for the parents
To make joint custody successful, it can be helpful to set ground rules with your ex. If your ex is unwilling to cooperate, you can still help your children by upholding ground rules you set for yourself.
Some basic rules to consider, include:
- Avoiding speaking negatively about your ex in front of your children.
- Recognizing that your child's needs are different than your own.
- Being realistic about your schedule and commitments.
- Picking your battles with your ex.
It is also important to find a way that you and your ex can effectively communicate about the children and any scheduling adjustments that might need to be made. For many divorcees, the best way to communicate is not face to face or over the phone. If this is the case, you could consider emailing or texting each other instead.
Helping your children get used to two homes
A big part of joint custody involves rotating the children between two homes, and for some children this transition can be a struggle. This is why another big part of making joint custody a success is making sure your children are comfortable in both homes.
Regardless of which house you live in it is a good idea to incorporate familiar items throughout your house because too much change can be overwhelming for children. If you live in the new house, you may have to incorporate these items intentionally. If you live in the marital house, you may need to resist the urge to remodel until some time has passed and your children have adjusted to the other changes going on.
If you are on good enough terms with your ex, consider other ways to keep your children's day consistent at both homes. This could include keeping a regular bed time, having the same homework expectations and perhaps other rules or household routines that both parents agree on.
You will also want to establish a routine for the time your children leave one parent's house and arrive at the other parent's house. You can create a list of the items each child needs to pack every time he or she switches houses. Many items, like pajamas, toiletries and clothing, can be stored at both houses for convenience, but some items, like a favorite stuffed animal or blanket, might need to be packed every time a child switches houses.
Many parents have also found it to be less disruptive if the parent who the children are with is the one to transport them to the other house. After the children arrive, it can be helpful to establish a low-stress routine for the time immediately following their arrival. Making a habit of cooking dinner or reading a book together can help provide the children the time they need to adjust to the change.
Even under the best circumstances, joint custody can be hard on kids and on parents. This is why it is important to do everything you can to make sure your transition to joint custody is a success.