When parents divorce, it can destabilize the entire lives of the children. They might have to change school districts, find it entirely new support network and adjust to a split schedule. Many families also have to reduce their overall standard of living when they have two independent households instead of one shared home.
You may have delayed filing for divorce because you don’t want it to harm your kids. While you cannot avoid all of the social and emotional consequences for your kids if you divorce, there are certain things that you can do that will make this whole process easier for them.
- Be realistic in your approach to child custody
You don’t have to turn your divorce into a knock-down, drag-out fight about who is the better person or better parent. Fighting over custody can make divorce harder on your children. Especially given that the Washington family courts will usually order co-parenting rather than sole custody, it may make more sense to gracefully accept shared parenting.
- Try to set up basic standards that you and your ex agree on
Parents often disagree even while happily married. After divorce, you will undoubtedly have occasional disputes about the best way to approach certain issues for your family. Agreeing to certain standards and rules early in the divorce can make co-parenting easier for everyone.
For example, you and your ex can agree to enforce the same rules at both houses. When the children have the same expectations regardless of where they stay, shared custody is easier for them to navigate.
- Set rules to establish structure, but prioritize flexibility
Once you agree on a schedule, you should do your best to uphold your responsibilities to the children and each other. However, remain flexible and willing to compromise when circumstances change.
Your willingness to pick up an extra weekend when your ex has out-of-town work responsibilities could mean that they will work with you when your vacation plans slightly infringe on their scheduled parenting time.
- Commit yourself to professional help when you need it
There are many times that professionals can help parents sharing custody. Your lawyers and possibly a mediator can make it easier for you to set custody terms that work for your family. You may also need to work with an attorney again if your parenting plan eventually requires a modification.
Working with a counselor who supports your children could be a good approach. Other parents may find that they need to go through co-parenting counseling. Even family counseling sessions may be necessary.
Asking for professional help when you need it can go a long way toward making divorce easier for your children by giving them the space they need to express themselves in a healthy manner.