To help your child move through the divorce process as smoothly as possible, keep the following issues in mind:
- Try to make your divorce as amicable as possible. If you and your ex-spouse continue to argue over everything from your divorce settlement to child visitation, this ongoing conflict is going to interfere with the healing process. Both of you should be willing to make some compromises for the sake of your child, and do not overreact to every issue that remains unresolved between the two of you.
- Whenever possible, avoid a lengthy legal battle, which can frighten and demoralize your child. Many states require divorcing parents to meet with a mediator before custody suits are heard; try to resolve these matters out of court to save everyone time, money, and aggravation
- Some research suggests that joint custody tends to be a more favorable situation for children than sole custody, but this is true only if both parents can maintain open communication, tolerate their differences, and work cooperatively as a team. Often joint custody arrangements, which force the child to shuttle back and forth and adapt to two households, cause distress and interfere with the child's social life.
- Try your best to understand the feelings of your youngster and your ex-spouse without attempting to change them. Think of your former spouse as a co-parent, and try to maintain a relationship in which you can talk with each other without a lot of discomfort. This may take some time and patience, but eventually you want to be able to work with your ex-spouse in raising your child, not to remain adversaries.
- Initially, most divorced parents find it easier to discuss parenting issues by phone, since face-to-face contact may raise the emotional climate to uncomfortable levels. But whether you choose to have these conversations by phone or in person, you and your ex-spouse will need to discuss your expectations of each other and establish some ground rules for communicating through the postdivorce period.
- At the outset the most important issues to deal with are visitation and access to your child. Make a schedule of when the noncustodial parent will call and visit. At the same time, you and your ex-spouse should set up a regular schedule for speaking by phone about issues pertaining to your youngster; by routinely keeping in touch with each other, the two of you can deal with your child's problems before they become crises.
- Of course, these discussions should not only be about problems but should also involve sharing observations about the events in your child's life. As trust builds, you will find it easier to discuss issues related to school, health, morals, religious values, and other important matters. With time you can work out a reasonable co-parenting relationship.
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