Many divorced parents face the reality of divided time with their children. Arrangements vary from weekend visitation to splitting time with each parent right down the middle. This often creates problems between the two homes: sometimes one parent is strict and the other is lenient, one parent may try to fill both parental roles, or perhaps one parent’s home is like a vacation spot.
Occasionally, parents refuse to work together for the good of the children out of spite for each other. This sets up an environment of competition, guilt and resentment, according to stepfamily expert, Elizabeth Einstein.
How can you work together for the best interest of your child?
First, you must put your issues aside. It is helpful if both of you:
Complete a joint-parenting plan and agree on expectations and limits so that your child can’t manipulate you;
Work as a team to provide consistency for the children;
Agree not to degrade or talk negatively about each other even though you might still have unresolved issues and anger;
Allow the children to talk about their feelings while listening and comforting them, as they also are going through a very difficult time; and
Try to make home as normal a place as possible.
Each of you should have a plan in place for how to spend your time with the children.
Remember to make sure it is not necessarily all fun and games, but give them the freedom to learn and get to know you better, just as they would if they lived with you all the time. It is important that the parent-child relationship does not only become one of playmate, peer or buddy when visitation time comes, but one of bonding.
Mentally prepare yourself for the visitation, and do not expect your kids to be cheerful and happy all the time. They are going through adjustments that will affect them for the rest of their lives.
Remember, no one is perfect. Do the best you know how to do. Work with your children to establish new traditions. Stick to the agreements in the joint-parenting plan, and above all, be consistent during the special times you have with your children.