The events and attendant feelings that lead a couple to divorce can often be traumatic. After a divorce, families are left with the challenge of moving forward through a difficult time of transition. In his book Anna Karenina, Tolstoy famously wrote that “happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” While we may find some humor in Tolstoy’s generalization, divorce is no laughing matter.
At Adinolfi & Packman, our years of experience as divorce attorneys has taught us to understand there is no “typical divorce” – all situations are unique and require the individual attention of a competent and caring divorce attorney. Likewise, there is not a perfect script or set of directions for families to follow that will ensure positive child and family outcomes following a divorce. However, there are some general guidelines to successful co-parenting that apply to many divorcing families we would like to share for the benefit of those preparing for a period of separation and/or divorce.
Be present for your children, both physically and emotionally.
After a divorce, many individuals struggle to adjust to their new roles and responsibilities. At times, parents become absorbed in their own pain and suffering and are not able to provide the support and comfort their children need. It is important that both parents make an effort to maintain and to be actively involved in their children’s day-to-day routines. Without time spent together, relationships will not grow. When parents spend time with their children, it is important to be emotionally present, engaged and taking an interest in their children’s lives. As you spend time together, make sure you create a safe environment for your children to express their emotions.
Children going through divorce can experience a wide array of emotions including shock, confusion, self-blame, fear, grief, sadness, anger and guilt. Be prepared to have many conversations with your child and be patient with them as they work through and express each emotion. The single most important thing you can do is to listen to them without getting upset for expressing their feelings however harsh their words may become.
Maintain open and respectful communication with your co-parent.
In today’s hectic world of work, responsibilities and activities it can be difficult to prepare meals, homework, arrange for rides and similar potential schedule conflicts. Therefore, it is to everyone’s benefit if parents are flexible with each other. Scheduling regular “co-parenting meetings” or conversations (either with or without a third party present) to organize and coordinate schedules is important to successfully maintain your children’s involvement in activities. While working together always speak about and act toward your co-parent in a respectful manner. Treating your co-parent with respect and understanding when they make a mistake will make it easier for them to do the same for you when the time comes and will teach your children a valuable life lesson, as well.
While co-parenting has its own unique share of challenges, it is important for both parents to maintain meaningful routine relationships with their children and to protect them from any parental conflicts that may arise.