My best friend is getting divorced. It’s so sad- sad for them, and their kids, and also for us, because she and her husband were our best pals. We were the types of friends who did everything together, and our kids were best friends, too. The reasons aren’t important, but the heartbreak is, and it’s very real for everyone. I know my friend is reeling and trying to face a new life after her “forever” has been altered. At one of our many evenings together where I would sit and listen while she tried to figure out how this new life is going to work, she told me that while losing her marriage was hard, figuring out how to co-parent was what was really bothering her. She is gutted that she isn’t going to be able to be a full time Mom to her kids anymore, not just as a SAHM, but having them full time. The thought of Christmas without her kids devastated her. She cried to me that she doesn’t know how to handle sharing what is the more important things in her life- her kids- with the person who has broken her heart. She also admitted that he is a good Dad, her kids adore him, and she doesn’t want to make her kids hate him. I supplied lots of love, hugs and a little wine while I thought about how horrible a job my Mom did with us after my parents divorced, and how it affected our relationship with our Dad. I knew there was a better way.
I started searching on Amazon for a book, and found THE NEW RULES OF DIVORCE: 12 Secrets to Protecting Your Wealth, Health, and Happiness. I sent a copy to my friend, and then I reached out to the author, Jacqueline Newman for some advice to send along to my friend, Here's what she said:
Play nicely in the sandbox: Whether you need to go to a boxing class, a yoga class, a therapy session or meditate, do what you need to do to get into the right mind space before speaking with your ex about child related issues. It is important that you try your best to be maintain a good, or at least civil, relationship with your ex. Remember just because someone is a bad spouse, it does not make him/her a bad parent. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: I understand that hearing your ex’s voice may sound like nails on a chalkboard, but you need to be able to withstand it for the sake of your children. Communication is key in any relationship and even more so when you are co-parenting your children with a person you may not see eye-to-eye with anymore. But if you fail to communicate effectively, then it really ends up being your children that suffer. Also, send updates and pictures of what the children are doing when with you to the other parent as it feels nice to be looped inRecognize and Accept that Parenting Can be done in different Ways: At your home, homework is done right when your child gets home, bedtime is at 8:00 sharp and sugar is only on birthdays. Yet, at your ex’s home, your child is having ice-cream for dinner, going to sleep at midnight and doing homework on the bus on the way to school. It is frustrating when routines are not consistent between two homes. That said, constantly criticizing the other parent’s parenting style is not going to create a workable co-parenting relationship and will ultimately result in a lack of communication which can be more damaging than the occasional banana split sundae. Set Communication Guidelines: If you and your ex have different communication styles – you respond to messages within seconds of receiving them and your ex gets to them all in due course, it can be very frustrating and lead to angry feelings. It may be worthwhile to be clear about expectations such as: emails must be responded to within 24 hours but text messages should be responded to within an hour (with the understanding that urgent issues are sent by text but less urgent issue are communicated via email). Set Regular Co-Parenting Meetings to discuss child related issues: Whether it is monthly, weekly or quarterly, you can make a set time that the two of you will speak about issues related to your children. This can help if you have busy schedules and play a bunch of phone tag and/or have trouble being totally focused when you two are speaking. A structured time to speak (even with an agenda of items to discuss) also allows each of you to be prepared for the conversation and hopefully get on the same page about issues surrounding your children. Have Transition Updates When the Children Switch From One Parent to the Other: A quick email or text before a the parenting time switches over may be helpful to keep everyone aware of what is going on with the child. Whether it is about the health changes (physical or emotional), upcoming appointments that will occur during that parent’s time with the child, school issues, fights with friends, a bad night’s sleep, any changes in the daily activities or anything else that would be helpful to facilitate a smooth transition for the child from one parent to the other. Have General Guidelines You Follow When There are Child-Related Events You are Both Attending: The last thing your child wants to experience is tension between his/her parents at joint events. Therefore, if you and your ex can be on the same page about how these will be handled in advance, it will save everyone a lot of anxiety. Have an agreement that if you are both at a baseball game and it is your ex’s parenting time, that after the game your ex will encourage the child to come over and give you a hug and you can speak for five minutes about the game but after that you direct your child back to your ex and leave immediately. That way you respect your ex’s time with the child but also get to talk about the amazing grand slam she hit that won the game!
I know that things are going to change a lot for my best friend- they already have. One thing that she has made sure of, however, in the midst of all of her pain and grief, is that she is being the best mother that she can be. That means being the bigger person while parenting her children. She told me that she may no longer be his wife, but she is forever their mother and she was going to make sure the kids knew that both of their parents will be there and love them, forever.