Recognizing and accepting the breakdown of a marriage is hard on its own, but add kids to the mix and the decision to divorce can seem downright unbearable. National studies insist two-parent households are declining across the U.S., but the Census Bureau states that almost three-quarters of American children currently live in two-parent households of some form. Of course, that doesn’t mean all of those households are healthy, the parents are both biological, or the kids are happy about the situation. Divorce can be tough on kids and lead to extensive life challenges. But study after study concludes kids who are products of joint child custody with loving and attentive parents do far better in life than those who aren’t. Fortunately, there are some effective tips for making joint custody work.
Prepare for Rough Transitions
Every child is different, and while one kid–or even a sibling–may handle the transition between households wonderfully the other may resist and rebel. Being willing to discuss plans, schedules, and expectations with the children is a crucial step towards helping them transition. But both parents need to be patient and understanding as well. If a child simply isn’t capable of accepting the transition at that moment, try to put their needs first and let them have some time to adjust and come to terms with it on their own. A calm transition is always better than a forced one.
Consider Or Reconsider Living Distance
Many exes want to live as far away from each other as possible. That can be feasible when one parent, usually the mother, has primary custody. But that’s tough on the kids when joint custody is involved. This isn’t just visitation. You both share custody of the kids and thus need to be equally present in their lives. Both parents will need to be involved in their education, extracurricular activities, dance recitals, football games, and graduation. Retrieving the forgotten math book or lucky socks at mom’s is a lot easier when you live in the same zip code.
Don’t Bad Mouth the Ex
This should go without saying and yet it’s one of the most common issues in post-divorce families: Don’t bad-mouth the ex around the kids. Your kids need to live with both of you and they need to maintain respect on both sides to become healthy and happy. If you’re talking smack about your ex, chances are he or she is doing the same about you. And that’s enough to make your kids resent both of you. Prioritize the kids and avoid the trash talk.
Keep Promises and Plans
Your responsibilities as a parent don’t end when the marriage does. Kids are creatures of habit and if you’ve been active in their lives until the divorce, they’ll expect that to continue. And there’s no reason for that to change outside of work requirements or actual emergencies. If you promise to pick your kids up from school, make it to their soccer tryouts, help them sell Girl Scout cookies, or host a graduation party, follow through. There’s more than joint custody online… ongoing backpedaling can affect or even destroy your entire relationship with your kids.
Expect Adolescent Changes and Teen Drama
Once kids reach puberty, most parents stop being their heroes. This is natural but it can hurt nonetheless, especially if your time with them is already cut in half. Teenagers are rebellious by nature and will more often than not go out of their way to ignore or neglect family duties or responsibilities in lieu of hanging out with their social circle. Avoiding household disputes while agreeing and compromising across the board on the big things can help ensure joint custody is a brilliant option for all involved. But if you need more assistance or suggestions, your Michigan divorce lawyer is just a call away.