“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...” is the opening line of the famous Charles Dickens’ novel The Tale of Two Cities.
Undoubtedly, It is a very bad time in many ways for many people in the world and we can turn, at least, the part related to our children into a challenge. The challenge is multi-faceted, such as: how do we home school and work from home too; what changes need to be made when parents live in two different households; how can we use this opportunity to teach our children about compassion and patience; do we need a daily schedule; and, what activities can we do with our children and still be safe?
Some of my suggestions below are the result of personal experience because I have assisted in home schooling my grandchildren. Experience is not necessary though, in order to successfully co-parent your children. A commitment to communication, however, is. The primary cause of divorce is lack of communication and the secret to successful co-parenting is a commitment to effective communication.
I have interviewed some parents who, after taking a course in co-parenting during their divorce – coparentingintothefuture.com - have successfully co-parented for up to 17 years. Each of them has made adjustments to the routine they had developed in order to best serve their children. They all also agreed that co-parenting during these times has required much more effective communication, flexibility and coordination, especially for teenagers. What at one time may have involved following a court-mandated access schedule, now requires accommodation to each other’s schedules, different ways to get the children and their school supplies, books and projects back and forth, coordination of information and agreed “rules” in order to keep everyone safe.
1. I think schedules are important. I have designed my own schedule which has more built-in time for either extra work on the topic at hand or time spent on something like puzzles, or cooking (which can be a great math learning tool), or research of a topic of their choice. For my grandson, the research topic was sloths. My granddaughter has learned to love baking.
2. One way to involve a parent in a different household In the daily schedule is to have arrangements for doing yoga or other exercise together as part of the morning schedule, via Zoom, while watching the same YouTube channel. Or afternoon reading after the official school day is over; or even a bedtime story.
3. Some families have started a game tradition over Zoom. Having only one parent participating in these games at a time, can afford the other parent either uninterrupted work time or time to just take a break. It is important that both the parents’ and the children’s needs are taken care of.
4. Creating ways for children to stay connected with their friends can be difficult. Finding those ways though is necessary for the children's emotional and social well-being. Zoom game days for kids is also great.
Most experts now agree that playing outside, with appropriate social distancing, presents a low risk for children. What about a BYOE (bring your own everything) field day with potato sack races, egg races, hide and seek and other games we grownups may remember from our childhood. Teenagers may enjoy a backyard dance party more. Make sure to have a large bottle of sanitizer around!
5. Summer brings a few more complications. Have the kids help you in making a schedule that will be easy for everyone to follow and which involves outdoor time, relaxation time for everyone, chores at home, and some play with friends. Backyard family camping, or building “forts“ in the house also works.
During these times, children are learning that communication matters, that cooperation and flexibility is important, that compassion is priceless, that learning can be fun and can come from many sources. I think that they will remember this time with their parents fondly. I predict that many children, when looking back on these times, will find them part of the “best of times”.
Children of divorce often already have the odds stacked against them. According to an August, 2018 article by Amy Morin LCSW entitled The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children published by verywell family.com, children face any number of the following effects from divorce:
1. loss of contact with, usually, their father;
2. less supportive relationships with their mother;
3. increased mental health issues;
4. an increase in conduct disorders, delinquency and impulsive behavior;
5. lower achievement test results, higher truancy rates and higher drop-out rates; and
6. an increase in risky behavior, such as drugs, alcohol use and early sexual activity.
So, is all lost then? The answer is a resounding “no”. Since communication is considered one of the major causes of divorce, learning to communicate regarding your children is a path out of the conundrum. While preferable for both parents to be actively involved in better communication, resulting in effective co-parenting, it is not absolutely necessary. Even one parent turning down the hostility and focusing on the children first, can result in less anxiety for the children and a better future. Good communication skills cannot be taught by or mandated by a court or attorney and cannot be wished into existence by well-meaning parents. It requires setting aside ego and a tally of grievances. It requires looking at your own part in the breakdown of the relationship and adopting an attitude of “children first”, no matter what. Because the job of the courts is to resolve for parties that which they cannot resolve for themselves, the court decisions are, by necessity, not individualized according to the family and specific needs before the court. The best result for most children is one arrived at by the parents who know best what their children, family and circumstances demand. This happens in the context of communication, forgiveness and a commitment to a child centric future between the parents.
There is a newly released, revolutionary, online course which offers the opportunity to embrace your past, its effects on your relationship and the children, and to forge a new path for the benefit of the children. coparentingintothefuture.com is that course. Designed by two parents divorced from one another, participants are guided through the often difficult look at their relationship and how they can create a future for their children which defies the odds and the difficulties set out above which face so many of our children. This course provides the opportunity to make your ongoing, post-divorce relationship with the other parent more effortless. It is interactive in its approach, including homework, listening as others struggle with similar issues in designing their futures, resources to assist you in communication and examples of how to develop workable agreements with the other parent. There are regular blog articles on a range of subjects such as holidays, resources, helpful books, money, the benefits of grandparents, and encouraging respect for and in our children.
Of the often sited causes for divorce, such as infidelity, physical abuse, drug or alcohol abuse and money, communication style and effectiveness is one where history can be changed. Do not let your past dictate your future or the futures of your children. Whether you are divorced, divorcing or still in a relationship, most problems can be resolved through clear and direct communication. Let the courts and attorneys do their jobs. You do yours. Give yourself and your children the gift of better communication.
For information, to have your questions answered, or to register click on: www.coparentingintothefuture.com (There is a 10% discount through August 31, 2020)
Or Call Martha Sasser at: 1 (888) 528-1992
Written by Jolene Wilson-Glah, JD
Consultant for CoparentingintotheFuture.com