How to talk to your children about co-parenting time
Written by Heidi Quinlan

How to talk to your children about co-parenting time

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Divorce can be a confusing, frustrating, and sad time for everyone, especially your child. They may feel as if they have no control over situations that affect them. During and after your divorce, you and your spouse must continue to make certain choices for your child. If you talk to your child schedules, parent communication, and their feelings, this may lessen confusion, fear of change, and frustration that stems from not knowing what to expect.

Talk to Your Child When He or She Needs Answers

You’re busy; it was hectic at work, and now you’re tired, but you’ve got to take your son to T-ball practice. You’ve explained his dad will bring him home. Then your son says, “But why is Daddy coming to T-ball? Why can’t you stay too?”

Take a deep breath before you blurt a flippant answer that you’ll regret later. The reality is, sitting on a bleacher next to your ex-husband and his new girlfriend probably wouldn’t be the icing on the cake of your day.

A five-year-old’s train of thought can be easily re-directed. Rather than say anything that portrays your ex negatively, be honest. Well, kind-of honest: “I’m really tired today, but your dad was so excited about seeing you practice. I’m going to go home this time, but I bet he’d want to stop for ice cream after practice. What will you say to that?”

Parental Unity is Important When You Talk to Your Children

If you participated in a collaborative divorce, at some point you and your former spouse discussed how you felt about parenting. One of you may be a stronger disciplinarian. One of you may be more adamant about church attendance or extracurricular activities. That’s okay, as long as you discuss and agree upon the particulars of co-parenting.

You should both agree on how to talk to your child about a number of topics, starting with ways to reassure your kids you both love them. Your kids sincerely need to hear that. Another important thing you can do to reassure your children they are still a part of a family is to present a united parental front.

This means you can’t speak poorly about your ex in front of the kids. You should take disagreements with your ex-spouse to another time or even another location. At every age, children need to know that they will not be forced to “choose” between their parents.

Let Them Do the Talking, Too

Once you and your ex have laid the foundation for open communication, allow your children the time they need to process this new lifestyle. How children react or act-out depends on their age and temperament. Keep them talking, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing. However, children should never be given the impression that decisions about parenting time are “up to them.” The adults make the decisions.

“Ask questions and help your child pinpoint his emotions. This is the time to listen. You want your kids to feel safe and validated in expressing whatever it is that they are feeling,” says Rosalind Sedacca, author of How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? “You want to make your children feel heard.”

With Collaborative Divorce, You Make the Rules…and the Roles

Open communication can help you and your family positively adjust to divorce faster. The collaborative divorce process is structured to help families make that adjustment. How you want to manage custodial and non-custodial parenting or who does what is up to the two of you. Contact one of the professionals at Best Legal Choices if you’d like to learn more about how to talk to your child about co-parenting time or to learn more about the collaborative divorce process.