We teach kids to share, but how do we share our kids? One of the first social skills that we are taught in life is how to share.
We have to share with our siblings, with our friends, our classmates and eventually our colleagues. Sharing is one of those basic life skills that we’re taught from day one. In our lifetime we share so many things and people…. but what happens when those people are suddenly your children? How do you share them with someone with whom you used to share your life and dreams?
I didn’t arrive at these suggestions or practises easily, but with some work, I did arrive at them. Like everyone, I’m still a work in progress too.
Here are five points to hopefully make the sharing a little easier:
1. Look at what you give instead of what you’ve taken away. Change your thinking and begin to see this as an opportunity to give your kids an enhanced childhood. They can and should experience different things with each of you.
2. Flexibility. Here’s something that your children will have to learn early on. We all have our own way of doing things and while you and your ex had presumably done things a certain way when you were married, those old routines and rules tend to bend and alter from home to home. My children will not explode if they’re bound to different rules and routines than the ones I had set forth for them. I’m not referring to anything that puts our children’s health and safety in danger, but it’s not actually the end of the world if my children have a few veggie-free meals in front of the TV. I’ve had to learn to say, “well, you’re not at Daddy’s house now…” It takes time and much patience, but kids do learn to adapt to two sets of rules and so must you.
3. Tolerance and Respect. Often times we are met with blended family situations from one or both parents, where the house rules and expectations are that much more different. The more people we add to our children’s lives, the more they’re going to need to be tolerant and understanding. Teaching our kids to navigate through situations where compromise and tolerance are necessary is a valuable life skill.
4. coParenting Decisions. If you share custody, then inevitably you’re going to have to make some joint decisions regarding your children. This process doesn’t always run smoothly for the happiest of married couples so trying to coParent with your ex can certainly be tricky. The best suggestions that I can offer here are as follows:
a) Keep the emotion and the past out of it. This is about your child NOW and moving forward, and has nothing to do with anything that may have happened.
b) The art of negotiation. Listen to your ex and hear them out. Then be sure to present your position in a professional and non-confrontational way. Hopefully this will alleviate some of the potential triggers for conflict.
5. Look at your child as a whole. Your children are a part of you and have a life with you. They also share a life with your ex. You’re both a part of their childhood, and irrespective of how much or little time you spend with your kids (which I guarantee will be less as they grow), your job remains the same. Parent them. Teach them. Guide them. Support them. Listen to them. Accept them. Love them. Sharing your children doesn’t translate to dividing them. Sharing them means that you share your love, pride and concern for them.
You shared your children before your divorce; the landscape was just different. Change your landscape but keep your gardening tools because you still both have a duty to grow healthy, well-adjusted, well-balanced and self-confident souls.
This article first appeared in the Huffington Post. For the full version, please click here: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/../../heather-feldstein/managing-divorce-parents_b_9378736.html