Whether balancing new parenting responsibilities with work expectations or managing difficult emotions, there are many challenges a parent faces after a separation or divorce. Fortunately, there are certain steps parents can take to make the post-divorce/separation period more manageable for them and their children. As a family lawyer, I recommend these tips for helping parents navigate this difficult transition so children can feel secure and loved in their new family structure.
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1. Plan and communicate. Communication with the other parent is essential. This can be accomplished by developing visual schedules, setting up family meetings or writing notes. If communication is a challenge, it may be useful to work with a child specialist or parenting coordinator to facilitate effective communication.
2. Be flexible. There will be times when your child’s co-parent cannot follow the schedule and will need help with parenting responsibilities. The more you can accommodate the other parent in these situations, the stronger your relationship will become and the more your children will benefit. By staying open to compromise and being flexible with the other parent, you are doing what is best for the child by putting his or her needs first.
3. Take care of yourself. Plan how you spend your time without your children. Exercise, take a class, meet with friends and enjoy quiet time to yourself. Your children will do much better if they know you are healthy and happy with and without them.
WHAT NOT TO DO
1. Keep score. Avoid counting the hours and minutes of time you spend with your children and comparing this with the other parent’s time. Instead, focus on making your time with your children the best it can be. Avoid saying, “I just do not know what I am going to do without you.”
2. React too quickly. When responding to your co-parent after separation or divorce, take the time to respond thoughtfully, particularly if emotions are running high. Many parents do much better if they draft a response, sleep on it, show it to a neutral friend or a professional and revise it if necessary before sending.
3. Hold onto the past. Get help if you find yourself still talking about how hurt and angry you are long after your divorce is finalized. There are outstanding therapists and small group-therapy sessions that can assist you in moving forward.
The most important thing to remember in all of this is that even in the most amicable situations, children are affected by their parents’ separation or divorce. However, your efforts to effectively manage your emotions and work cooperatively with your co-parent will help create a secure and safe harbor for your children as they navigate their new family structure.
Kelly Ausley-Flores focuses on complex family-law cases involving complicated property divisions, family businesses, spousal maintenance and customized possession schedules when parents work irregular hours. She is committed to helping individuals regain their voice and confidence so they can successfully move forward with their lives after divorce. Ausley-Flores is a partner at the family-law firm GoransonBain Ausley. She is a fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and was named Best Lawyer of the Year in Austin for Family Law in 2017, 2014 and 2012. She is board-certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
For more information about family law, divorce or effective co-parenting strategies, contact Kelly Ausley-Flores at 512.454.8791 or gbafamilylaw.com.