Once the divorce dust settles, it's time to establish a new norm for your family. Mighty Mommy shares tips on how to co-parenting after divorce to put your kids first.
In a recent episode, I shared that I would be doing a 4-part series on divorce. I’ve been divorced for 5 years now and wanted to share what has worked for me, my ex-husband, and our 8 kids during this time. While divorce is not easy, time does help heal, and when your focus is putting your kids first, it is absolutely possible to maintain a healthy, happy family relationship.
My first episode in this series was 5 Expert-Approved Ways to Talk to Your Kids About Divorce. My second episode in this series was 5 Ways to Co-Parent with Your Ex-Spouse. The third episode was Financial Considerations When Getting a Divorce.
The final episode in my divorce series is what I believe is the most important—keeping the focus on making life as easy and normal as possible for your kids after the divorce dust settles. Mighty Mommy shares 5 important tips on how to put your kids first.
1. Commit to “Kids First”
I read a wonderful article listed on coparentingguide.org, which says, “The first step in your co-parenting journey is to make a commitment to your children, giving assurance that you are committed to learn how to co-parent, be open to change, receptive to feedback, and you will give your all in order to grow as a parent, a co-parent and a person.”
This philosophy has been the foundation for my ex-husband and I as we continue into the 5th year of our co-parenting journey together. Our kids did not ask for their parents to split up, and in many divorces it might be only one partner that wanted the divorce. Life in this instance can seem unfair. But I realized early on in our divorce proceedings that our kids deserved the best life possible post-divorce and that was only going to happen if I put my relationship emotions aside and focused on their needs and well-being. This took a lot of work on my part, but my mantra “Kids First Always,” helped me when I was struggling. In fact, focusing on making them feel as comfortable as possible with our new situation was actually great therapy for me. My ex and I worked together to create a “new norm” for all 8 of them and for each other. We now have what I’d call a business-like relationship, which allows us to care for our family’s many needs with practical and well thought-out solutions rather than getting caught up in the heat-of-the moment that many divorce couples struggle with.
2. Choose Positivity
In 5 Ways to Make Your Child More Likeable, I shared a little fact about my overall disposition in life—I’m a Pollyanna. She is the main character in Eleanor Porter’s novel, Pollyanna, and to everyone she meets, plays a game her father taught her, “the glad game,” which is believing that no matter what happens, there’s always something to be glad about. One should always hunt for the positive aspects in seemingly bad experiences.
This attitude has served me well in my post-divorce journey because I look for the good in my ex-husband rather than the things I dislike, and I take it one step further by noting these things in front of my children when it’s appropriate. For example, recently we had a lot of rain in a short period causing our family room to flood. Ugh! It was a real mess. Though it’s my house now, and he doesn’t have a financial obligation to help with any upkeep, my ex saw how distraught I was and immediately pitched in and helped with the clean-up. He even took a couple of days out of work to do it. I was more than grateful and shared with our kids how much I appreciated his help and dedication to our family during a tough time. This made all of us still feel connected in a positive way.
In Agree to Balanced Duties and Healthy Boundaries, the writer shares some important advice on the importance of choosing to be positive. “Remember, you can’t change your ex, you can only change yourself. But, your child will fair best with two happy, healthy and active parents. So, you can choose to be a positive influence in your ex’s life or you can choose to be their biggest nightmare. Either way, your behavior impacts your child’s perception and their reality – so always keep that in the front of your mind.”
3. Maintain Your Child’s Routines
Not only do routines help keep order and structure in your home (though your kids might never admit it), they also help kids thrive and keep them grounded. Routines are your daily habits, the things that you do the same way at the same time. Routines help children feel safe and secure because they know that certain things happen at certain times.
When we began going through our divorce, I will be the first to admit that our household experienced a tumultuous period when we transitioned into our new living arrangements. I even over-indulged my kids a wee bit to compensate (in my own mind) for any sadness they were feeling and to satisfy my guilt for what they were experiencing. Luckily, that didn’t last for very long because my family and I are both so routine-oriented I knew we would all react better to these changes by maintaining our day-to-day schedule and routines.