5 Rules to Make Parenting in Separate Homes Easier
Raising children across separate homes can be complicated. Managing pick-ups and drop-offs, deciding who goes where on which holidays, and remembering all of the events and extracurriculars for the kids is a lot to coordinate. In addition to all of this, parents need to stay on top of their child's current medical data, school schedules, shoe sizes, favorite colors, and so much more—plus do their best to share this information so it's accessible in both households.
In the wake of a difficult divorce or separation, managing all of these plans and details with the person you just ended a relationship with might be the last thing you want to do. Despite this, your children will remain an important part of your lives and will look to both of you for support and structure moving forward.
So what are some guidelines you can follow to manage all of this information and raise your children across homes successfully? Here are five rules that can help you parent across separate homes most effectively.
Follow Your Parenting Plan
Your parenting plan is your guide to handling all sorts of parenting matters after your divorce or separation. It should cover details ranging from your family's basic shared parenting schedule and holiday agenda to how you and your co-parent will make important decisions concerning your child. It can even go as far as to detail the plans for how you will handle things like your child's sleeping arrangements, curfew, internet usage, and more.
If you're still drafting your plan, be active in its creation. Think about how your plan can best serve the needs of your children, and express your desire to have those items included in the plan to your attorney, mediator, or any other professionals who are helping formulate the plan. A plan that serves your children first and foremost is the foundation of a successful co-parenting arrangement.
Once your plan is set, stick to it. If you were working with your co-parent and professionals when drafting it, you are more likely to be satisfied with the outcome and can follow it with ease.
Have A Plan For Handling Changes
All that being said, there will be one-off situations in which you can't just stick to the plan, like if you find that have to go out of town for work. Be ready to accept these situations from time to time. A little understanding and flexibility can go a long way in helping your family's plans to come together, even if you have to change one day's plan entirely.
Have a strategy in place for how you and your co-parent will handle these occasions. If you know that something cannot go according to plan due to a scheduling conflict, communicate that to your co-parent as soon as possible so you can work together to adjust the schedule. Do your best to work with your co-parent to find a solution that serves your children's needs.
Your children's needs will evolve as they grow older, so your parenting plan should evolve with them. Re-evaluate your parenting plan every few years as your children age, move to new schools, and find new priorities. Work together to formalize new arrangements as needed, documenting any adjustments so that you can both refer to them later on.
Work Towards Ending Conflict
If conflict continually crops up between you and your co-parent, then co-parenting overall won't get any easier. To help things run smoothly for your children, make an effort to reduce conflicts and ongoing disputes.
Consider where your conflict stems from and what prolongs it. How you communicate can influence how successful your interactions are, so try using a method that helps you keep your communication concise and focused on the facts. If you're able to share information and have more effective interactions, you're likely to improve your co-parenting over time.
When you're with your children, be mindful not to speak negatively about your co-parent. Their other parent is just as important to them as you are, and hearing either of you say bad things about each other can feel very confusing and hurtful. Moreover, doing so could just lead to more conflict which will make it harder to stick to your family plans.
Avoid topics that could lead you to have negative thoughts or urges to say something that you might regret later. Save these subjects to discuss during more appropriate occasions such as when you are with your trusted adult friends, a counselor, or a therapist. It's important to talk about whatever it is you may be feeling, as long as you're doing it only at appropriate times and with appropriate people.
Keep In Mind What Matters Most
While your children are still young and relying on you for care, they'll be counting on you and your co-parent for everything from their basic needs to helping them achieve their desires. Keep your kids in the forefront of your mind in everything you do that relates to your family. Work to provide them with their basic needs and protect their overall wellbeing.
Parenting across two homes might not be simple, but it certainly doesn't have to feel so difficult. These rules are just a few things that you can do to help you follow through with your parenting responsibilities as smoothly as possible. However, it should be noted that every family's situation is different, and some rules may be more useful than others depending on the circumstances. If you find yourself running into issues in keeping with your family plans, speak to your legal or mental health practitioners for guidance.