Comparing schedules. Designating holidays. Shuffling your kids from one house to the other. Sharing custody of your kids is no easy feat, how are you supposed to work with an ex that you don't see eye-to-eye with? The good news is, ex-spouse's successfully co-parent all the time. The bad news is, now it's your turn to make it work.
How will you make it work? The first thing you and your ex need to do is create a parenting plan that works for both of you. This plan should be followed and executed willingly by both parents, amendments or compromises can be made along the way but it's important you both agree to follow the terms of the plan. Consider using a mediator to help facilitate making the plan if you and your ex cannot do so cordially.
Follow the rules listed below to help you create a successful parenting plan.
Rule #1: Don't speak ill of your ex
Badmouthing your ex, especially to or around your children is never a good idea. No matter how you feel about your ex, they are still a part of your children's lives. Your kids deserve the opportunity to form their own feelings and make their own judgments. Your feelings are yours alone, so please keep your comments to yourself.
Rule #2: It's not about you
The divorce was about you and your ex but custody is about your kids. Custody isn't a competition; it's not about getting exactly what you want or spitefully fighting your ex on what they want. It's about making sure the arrangement suits the needs of your children.
What's best for your children might not always make you feel good as the parent. It's important that you find ways of coping with the hardship that co-parenting can bring. Talk to a counselor or seek out friends who might be going through something similar. Find your support group and don't be afraid to use it.
Rule #3: Be realistic about your schedule
Don't commit to more time with your kids than you can handle. You might feel scared and want to gobble up as much of your kid's time as possible but over-committing will create stressful situations that could have been avoided from the start.
If you have a scheduling conflict or commitment that you need to see through, lay it all out while the plan is being made. Maybe your ex can alleviate some stress by taking the kids for the evening or a portion of the day.
Rule #4: Take your children's schedules into account
Make sure your custody arrangement accommodates your children's activities, school schedules and whatever else they might be committed to. Consider the proximity of their commitments to both houses and which parent has the availability to be there.
Rule #5: Bad spouses don't automatically make for bad parents
Your ex may not have been the picture perfect spouse but that doesn't mean they aren't a good parent. This will be a fresh start at parenting for each of you; you've only had experience parenting as a married couple before. Don't assume they're going to fail, give them a chance to succeed and hopefully they'll do the same for you.
Rule #6: Agree to a mode of communication
Find a mode of communication that you can agree on. No matter what type of activities your kids are involved with, there's going to be a need to share information with your ex. If they have a doctor's appointment or upcoming field trip, how would you prefer to relay this information?
Rule #7: Pick your battles
Parenting is tough and there's going to come a time when you don't agree with something your ex has done. When that happens, ask yourself if it's really worth fighting over. Do you want them interfering every time you make a decision they don't like? Save the arguments for more serious issues, if parenting duties are being neglected, there's a medical concern, etc.
Rule #8: Include your children, let them feel heard
While deciding what's best for your children, include them in the conversation. Even though it may be difficult to hear, ask them what they want. Ultimately, you and your ex will make the final decision but it's important for your kids to feel like their opinions matter. Remember, they're going through a divorce too and are going to need your support now more than ever.
Rule #9: Remember that things change
As time goes and your kids grow, there's bound to be changes to their schedule and yours. It's important to be flexible because from time to time, you and your ex will need to revisit your agreement and adjust it as needed.