Tips for Separated Parents
A marriage separation is an emotional adjustment for any family to make. When parents make the choice to separate, the intimate aspect of their relationship may have ended, but their relationship as parents to their children remains intact. For this reason, separated parents must find ways to cultivate this new type of relationship and manage parenting apart. It will be a difficult process, and it will take some time to become accustomed to for both you and your kids. While this is true, there are a few things that separated parents can remember and put into practice in order to facilitate the process of this significant adjustment.
Kids Come First
As you begin the process of separation, your kids will probably have a whirlwind of questions and concerns stirring in their minds. You might have already had a conversation or two about the situation, but that doesn't mean that they will simply get what's going on and why it's happening. For separated parents, it will be important to pay close attention to your kids and the status of their overall well-being. They sometimes might come to you with questions or share their worries, and you should address these moments with honesty and sensitivity. Don't shield your kids from the truth, but do address their questions in a manner that is appropriate to their age and maturity. On the other hand, your kids may also withdraw from you at times and not share their emotions with you. It is in these moments that you should not simply assume that they are all right, or that they understand what's going on and have no worries. Engage your kids in conversations about how they are feeling, and share your feelings with them too. Your kids will need your strength as you all go through this tough period, but they also need your sympathy and to know that they are not the only ones experiencing a number of feelings in regards to the situation.
Don't Face It All By Yourself
While the main concern of separated parents should largely focus on the well-being of their kids, parents should not neglect their own health and well-being. One thing that helps to ease the process for separated parents is the ability to call on those closest to them for help during this tough time. Separated parents should not have to go through this whole process each completely on their own. Family and close friends are there to help you and offer support to you in many ways. They are people to whom you can vent your feelings when you're feeling low. They are also people that you can ask favors of when you are particularly overwhelmed. You might not have the energy to cook a meal or maybe you just need a couple hours to do a few things for yourself. Don't be afraid to ask those closest to you for favors every now and then. These people that love and care for you and your kids want to be there in your time of need, so let them be there. You don't have to go through this alone.
Work Out A Plan
Part of what makes separated parenting work is to have plans in place to help make it so everyone knows what's going on. Deciding on a parenting time schedule is one important element to work out. A day-to-day schedule of where the kids will be spending their time is going to help everyone involved to know what to plan for. It will take time to adjust to a schedule that involves your kids moving between homes, but in the end, allowing them to have quality time with both of their parents will allow them to continue cultivating meaningful relationships on both sides. If this isn't possible due to one parent being separated too much distance for regular overnights to be a workable option, you might instead plan out a regular schedule of visitations on weekends and over holidays. You may also plan times at which the kids will connect with the other parent during the week. Phone calls and video chats online are excellent tools for parents to use to communicate with their kids while they are apart. Get this schedule in a place where both you and your kids have access to see it. For parents and older children, using a shared online calendar to document this schedule will be easiest for everyone to access from any device with internet access. If your kids are rather young, you could help them build a colorful calendar to hang in their room that is easy for them to read and know which days they'll be with each of their parents.
Planning a schedule is important, but what is just as important is deciding how to handle parenting expenses after separation. Managing daily parenting costs will be part of this decision, but it is also important to decide how to deal with things like who gets the marital home, how to divide other large assets, and much more. You may already have some ideas as far as how you'd like to see expenses split, but your co-parent may have their own ideas. Discuss your thoughts on this together, and if you find you are not in agreement on certain aspects, seek assistance from a professional. A certified divorce financial professional can help you decide how your personal expenses would be best managed after separation. You might even consider mediation as an option to help you and your co-parent negotiate these decisions.
Finally, work out a way in which you and your co-parent will communicate about family-related matters from here on out. Separated parents who have trouble communicating without conflict getting in the way will benefit from choosing a means by which they can communicate without putting the kids in the middle of an argument. Using a written, online means of communication can help with this, particularly those available via online co-parenting tools. Some online co-parenting tools offer more than just a messaging center for parents to communicate through like online calendaring and expense tracking. Condensing co-parenting communication to a secure online resource can help keep conflict out of your kids' ears while keeping all of your important family plans organized and available.
Get To Know A Pro
Separated parents may need some extra help getting through some of this decision making as well as learning how to appropriately handle their emotions and those of their kids. To help in all of those areas, family law and mental health professionals are there for you. Your attorney can help you navigate the complex legal processes that is often involved in a separation or divorce. Mental health practitioners such as a therapist can help you to manage your emotions and teach you ways to cope with different things you are feeling. To help you find family law professionals in your area, take a look at our resources directory.