(Interacting with both) Parents is important to a child.
Normally people are married for years prior to filing for divorce. It is during the time the marital relationship is maintained that children will establish strong ties to both of their parents. The fact that a mother and father no longer wish to be together does not mean that a child shares the same desire. The child will always need their mom and dad. Children are desperately afraid that they will lose a relationship with one of their parents after a divorce.
Your child did not pick his or her mommy or daddy, you and your ex did that. It is clearly your right to leave the relationship you had with your ex… It is also equally clear that you have a responsibility to your child that they know, no matter what, that their mom and dad will always be there for them.
If you remarry, your new spouse does not the child’s mother or father. Your child may look at your new spouse as a parental figure, but may get confused if you asked them to call them “mom” or “dad.” If you have younger children, try and talk and help them choose a word that helps them which their relationship to this new person in their life. Some children find happiness and comfort in identifying with your new spouse as “Mom” or “Dad. Some other children will get lost in the meaning of calling this person by this name, wondering that they have lost a relationship with their actual biological parent.
Matt Sossi: Excerpt from A-Z guide to cooperative parenting
Own the moment, do not let others influence your decision making processes as to what you truly believe is in the best interest of your child.
From time to time I have a client pull me aside and say Matt, let me tell you something, “I just want to be fair and do what’s in my kids best interest.” The most important thing to remember is that this is ultimately your case, your family, and your child. There will never be a problem with you telling the lawyer straight out what you want done. Your lawyer’s job ultimately is to do what you ask them to do.
Regardless of what your lawyer tells you about your rights under the law, it is ultimately your right to decide how you will handle your disputed family issues. The only thing you need to be weary of is the consequence of your decision. Simply put, has your lawyer informed you of the RAMIFICATIONS of what is included in the proposed agreement?
Provided that you are informed and understand, you can have peace with how the case was resolved. You alone are the one who truly knows your needs as well as the needs of your ex in relationship and how the role you originally wanted in raising your children.
Offer suggestions to your attorney on how you want to settle the case. You do not have to sit on the sidelines and wait for your case to be resolved. Be active, be opinionated, and see if you can own the moment, finding a way to reach through to your ex and come up with a resolution on the issues you have in dispute.
Matt Sossi @kidsfirstparentssecond.org
No is a totally acceptable word to say to your child’s other parent. Saying no allows you the right to maintain proper boundaries and it might just keep you from strangling your ex who continues to make terrible decisions. Being flexible and minimizing conflicts does not give your ex a blank check to do whatever they want.
Make sure that you are giving more thought to the word no than, let’s say, a two year old. It’s really not ok to tell your ex NO every time that he or she wants to spend time with your child when it is not their scheduled time. Think about it – your ex may want to take your child to a new movie they had been talking about seeing, or to a sporting event your child enjoys. Your ex may want to simply call your child on the phone. It is not ok to simply say no to every request that your ex has just because you feel entitled, or empowered to deny his or her request.
Remember saying no is a word that does not lead to opening communication. No is one directional, the word ends a discussion, it does not start it. The continual use of no, no, no, no to every attempted discussion by your ex will frustrate, if not terminate, any possibility that you two will ever truly communicate.
Normally in life you get what you give. If all you are saying is no, your ex will also share your sentiment. So be smarter than a two year old and think before you say NO. If you can look behind the reason why the request is being made, you can say YES from time to time, or you can even say MAYBE, let me think about it (so long as you don’t waffle!). It is really not that hard.
Matt Sossi @ kidsfirstparentssecond.org
(Try to) Maintain objectivity at all times.
Before a dispute turns into a genuine conflict, both parent’s need to decide what action they want to take and what consequence they will face because of it. Moving forward, hiring an attorney and take an ex back to court will have one consequence. Making concessions and working out an agreement will make for another. You will hope that the direction you take is the one best suited to meet the needs of your child.
You will have yourself, your friends and your parents perhaps to guide you through this thought process. For especially young people, friends and parents will want you to distance yourself from your ex. It is not their fault for they love and want the best for you. From their point of view the best thing for you is to not communicate with your ex about anything.
Let’s say that you have been told that your ex had an overnight guest over last night during his visitation weekend with the children. Your children also tell you that this overnight guest was a lady they never met before. Your friends immediately blurt out “that son of a bitch…”….”I can’t believe that he just got divorced and is moving in some other girl. Your parents say “Who knows who this person is, she could have been a drug addict.” You walk to the phone to call a family law attorney to get an emergency injunction to prevent your ex from engaging in such conduct….. Then you pause.
Over the long term, the one person who most likely has the best chance of being objective is you. You have the best working knowledge of your ex, their wants and wishes, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Before deciding if your disagreement is a bona fide dispute go through a check list and see what you come up with.
- Do I know all the facts of what’s going on?
- From what I am being told¸ is this something that I see my ex being involved with, or doing?
- What does my ex thing about the situation at hand/will he be truthful with me about what is going on?
- If I confront my ex about the situation what will he or her response be?
- Do I trust my ex that he will listen to my concerns?
- Do I trust my ex to be honest and address my concerns and truly change what he’s doing?
- Is it in my child’s best interest that I interfere and modify the periods of visitation my ex has?
- What is your plan of action, how are you going to handle the situation?
By calling your ex you discover that the person staying the night was your ex’s Sister Sally who arrived late from the airport. What your friends believed was the great crisis of the day was no issue at all, and you just saved yourself needless worry by contacting your ex. Do you see the importance of communicating? Do you see the importance of being objective?
Now, let us say you discover that your ex truly did have some unrelated person staying the night at their house. Not assuming the worst puts you in control of the situation when you tell your ex “Surely you do not think it’s a good idea have some girl at your house that the kids never met before.” You give the appearance of being fair, objective and can control your emotions much easier. Talking to your ex this way puts you in control of the situation and places your ex in a no win situation. What can your ex truly say to disagree with you on how you feel at that moment?
By effectively communicating you find that you are now in control of how to you handle difficult situations. You have shown your ex that you have presumed that what was being said could possibly not be true, because you think that your ex would never place your children in such a situation. It is up to your ex, through their actions, to lose the trust that you have placed in them.
Matt Sossi @kidsfirstparentssecond.org
A large percentage of my writings focus on parent’s need to learn better communication techniques so conflicts can be resolved. I will tell you that if you cannot trust someone you can never ever truly begin to communicate with them. The definition of trust according to Webster is assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. The million dollar question is if you couldn’t trust someone enough to stay married to them, how can you trust with them now? How then can you communicate with them?
If you share one connection with your ex, it is the children you love. You both want the best for your children. You both would sacrifice your personal happiness to ensure that the child’s needs are met. If you can build off that one common denominator you will have a chance to trust and be trusted. To gain the other’s trust you first must show a willingness to accept the other parent and the positive influence they have on your children. Focus primarily on the needs of your child when dealing with your ex.
Trust will not come free it will have to be earned. You will have to continue to show the other parent that you respect their role in your children’s lives. You will have to stay true to your word. You will have to respect both your ex’s concerns as well as their wishes. Focus on what your child’s needs are. Be a better parent than you were a husband or wife.
Remember that fault in the breakup of the relationship is, in large part, irrelevant. You and your ex’s past history matters little. You will need to clean the slate to a degree. Your children hopefully will never know the reasons why you and your ex failed as a couple. That being said, your children WILL ALWAYS remember how you and your ex interacted when they were growing up and they will be a byproduct of your love or of your hatred for one another.
Matt Sossi @kidsfirstparentssecond.org
Keep the lines of communication open between yourself and your ex.
Assume that husband and wife enter into an agreed divorce and work out a parenting agreement involving their minor two year old child. The two stop talking and go their separate ways, each getting remarried within a one year period. Both parents keep to the visitation schedule, and pick up the children at the end of school days only, religiously avoiding one another for fear that it could affect the new relationship they share with their present spouses.
Mother hires an attorney believing that the father has too much time with their five year old child now that the child has begun the second grade. Mother has not talked to her ex about changing his visitation schedule because she and her new husband agree that litigation will be the key to getting the results they want. Mom genuinely believes the modification will be in the child’s best interest she does not think that the current visitation is workable given the child’s new schedule.
Mom and dad look at each other from their respective tables inside the court room and shake their head. The key reason why they got themselves into this situation is they had a failure to communicate with one another other about their child’s changing needs. Visitation schedules will most likely change based upon the age and needs of your child. Your original order may not address every change your child needs.
Practically speaking an agreement that meets the parent’s needs to have ample or even equal weekly periods access for a young child may not serve the child’s needs once they begin to attend school. Talking through the issue would allow the parent’s to understand that this conflict could be resolved simply by redrawing the father’s time by looking at a calendar. If you can resolve this through mediation, why would you want to go into a court room and have a Court decide your child’s fate?
Think of your parenting plan as a living breathing organism that will grow and change over time. Understand that communication is the essential ingredient keeps you’re the agreement viable. You don’t have to talk to your ex every day to keep the lines of communication open, nor do you have to talk to them week. Sharing information over the internet and emailing your concerns lets the other parent know what is going on and what changes may need to be changes to be made to the child’s existing parenting agreement so the child is taken care of.