Divorce, paternity, or other domestic litigation is a stressful process, and can often lead to anger, bitterness, and miscommunication between parents. However, as we embark on a new year, take a moment to read these five (5) tips for ringing in the New Year more harmonious parenting time.
1. Be understanding of scheduling issues
Especially around the holidays, everyone’s schedule becomes more hectic and sometimes unpredictable. Family is in from out of town and children have school events. When one of these scheduling issues arises, try to accommodate the other parent and let them have that time.
This is not to say that this should be abused or one parent should dominate the holidays at the other’s expense, but if there is a time you can be flexible, do it. Hopefully, if you find yourself in a situation where you need more time or to exchange time, the other parent will be just as willing to work together.
In other words, put the past in the past, communicate the “fresh start” to the other parent and try anew to make scheduling issues less of an issue. Your children will benefit from this more than you will.
2. Remember, the child is the focus
Often, when domestic issues are present, the parties can forget the child’s needs and perceptions and focus on themselves or the other parent. Keep in mind that it is the child that should be the focus of both parents, and do what you can to discourage conflict and fighting.
Children are quite perceptive, and can often notice, even at a young age, when parents are not getting along or are angry or stressed. Try to keep things positive and avoid exposing your child to any stress or bitterness involved with domestic issues.
Even if you do not say it, your children know when you are upset about parenting time issues. Body language gives it away. Try keeping the child as the center of focus and it will make for a more happy child and better adult relationships. This is why parents had children in the first place.
3. Send the child prepared (for many scenarios)
During the holidays and after, there are often many events, requiring the child to be prepared for multiple situations. Be sure to send appropriate clothes, supplies, and homework with the child to the other parent. Do not let there be a situation where your child cannot participate in an activity or function because you forgot to pack and send the right clothes, or gets an incomplete for not having homework done and ready.
It is very easy to be judgmental or one-sided about this because of the way the other parent sends the child to or from parenting time. Rise above this and remember it is your child, and whether in your presence or not, the lack of proper attire deprives him or her of quality time, which is what you should aspire for, for your child, even in your absence.
4. Consider a Parenting Coordinator for the day-to-day conflicts
Some parents have a very difficult time negotiating even the little issues, such as which sport the child will play in the fall or which after school program is best. Instead of going to Court for each and every issue, consider a parenting coordinator in high stress/conflict situations. This neutral, third party can listen to both parents and can offer advice or sometimes even make a binding recommendation as to what the parties should do. This can keep parties out of Court, giving more time to focus on the children.
And more importantly, a parenting coordinator can provide insights and solutions in real time, not days, weeks or months later in court after the matter is moot. Presumably, this also diffuses the tension build up over little disputes and enhances overall parenting time.
5. Prepare in advance for high conflict times
The holidays and time thereafter can be a stressful as well as enjoyable time. Often, family is coming together and events are being attended. Take a moment and prepare for moments that may cause you stress. For example, if the child is meeting the other parent’s significant other for the first time, take time to be at peace with this so that the child makes the most of the experience. Know what is coming up, and do your best to prepare to do your best to support your child.
Most parents, at least after the first round of holidays post divorce, know what the hot button issues are. It is very easy to avoid these until the last minute, when your counsel or a court cannot try to resolve in advance. So when you know there will be issues, try to resolve in advance, not wait until the inevitable and then be upset over the holidays or other special times. This hurts you and your children.
Taking time around the New Year to reevaluate and make some resolutions for a more harmonious 2013 and it will likely benefit both you and your child. Children are our future and resolution can be made and tried. Try not to default to the past. Resolve this is the year to be better parents post-divorce and better children as a result.
We hope that your New Year is filled with peace and safety, and that your resolutions to make more peace during parenting time are realized.
Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.