- Set Aside Time for Your Kids
Getting a divorce can be quite time consuming, and life after divorce can be equally as busy. Before you become too swamped, it's important to set aside time specifically for you and your children. Even if the day ahead of you is looking hectic, try to enjoy the time you do spend together, whether that be in the car on the way to practice, around the dinner table, or even a weekend brunch. Think about these things in advance and know when you and your kids are going to be spending time together, clear your mind to the best of your abilities and try to engage them with what's going on in their lives, and remember, turn off the Xbox and kill the TV as much as possible when you're with your children.
- Give Your Child a Voice
The divorce process is bound to make your children feel somewhat powerless, huge life changes have been made for them and they have had very little input. Whether that be moving houses, changing schools, or a parent moving out, these changes can be tough on them mentally and emotionally. Your goal must now be to give them a voice to express their concerns and opinions without feeling like you're going to be angry or upset with them. This is easier said than done as divorce can inherently come along with a little bit of uncertainty and distrust in one's parents, you need to reassure them that you and your ex love them no matter what and want to hear what they have to say; their opinion is important too. If you can, let them make some decisions, this might be as simple as them deciding which weekend night they'd like to spend at your house and which night at your ex's, these things can go a long way in making them feel like they have some control over this difficult situation and can help them open up on their own terms.
- Make Family Events a Priority
This is probably the most obvious example of what putting your child's interest before your own really means when it comes down to it. No matter what hectic and tense things are happening between you and your ex-spouse during and after your split, family events are important and can't be neglected. They need to know that although it may be structured slightly differently, you're still a family and can still have fun together.
This means birthdays, holidays, graduations, school events, sports games and weekends are all crucial times for you to capitalize on keeping your family bond strong and keeping the tone light, you don't want them stuck in the mess of your divorce any more than they absolutely must. You can engage in these events alone, but often it's even better to have your ex there, if you're both there civilly cheering them on at their game, they'll be happy and reassured that the whole world hasn't flipped upside down.
- Be Willing to Co-Parent
The little common sense angel on your shoulder will surely let you know that bad-mouthing your ex to your children is not a constructive idea, but we all know that this is easier said than done. Sometimes, your intentions are nothing but pure and you just want them to see something for the way it truly is, but that doesn't mean you can't be conscious of the way you deliver these lessons to your children. Try to present the points of contention between you and your ex as simple, civil disagreements, not one person or the other's fault. Look for ways to collaborate with your ex when you can on how to raise your children. You aren't always going to get along or agree on the best parenting strategies, but you can keep the conversations civil (especially around your children) and focus on the things you do agree on to your children. This is a hard thing to do, but it will go a long way in giving your children a little piece of mind.
- Make Time for Yourself
Your children's needs come first, but that doesn't mean you can't focus on yourself as well. Neglecting yourself for too long is only going to lead in your parenting skill deteriorating in the long run so it's important to do some personal reflection on your mental and emotional state and try to find an outlet you enjoy. Keeping yourself physically and mentally healthy through the divorce process may seem impossible when you're in the midst of it all, but the more you try, the happier you and your children will be in the long run. Lean on your support system for some guidance and try to sneak in some time to exercise, it will keep you physically healthy and mentally fresh to deal with the inevitable next problem to tackle.
Washington Divorce Lawyers
Our attorneys regularly speak on family law and parenting plan matters. Elise has extensive experience in high-conflict parenting disputes. If you have any questions about Washington state divorce law, mediation or child custody, please contact us at [email protected] or 206-926-9848.