Encouraging strong co-parenting communication with a parent who doesn’t often get to see your children in person can be tricky. The most important thing about any arrangement is putting your children first.
Going through a divorce impacts more than just you and your former spouse. It can have a heavy impact on your children, too. After a divorce, one parent usually moves out of the house and a unified parenting schedule is set up. This ensures children are still spending time with each parent as equally as possible. Ideally, both parents live within a short distance of each other, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes physical distance and scheduling conflicts make it nearly impossible for parents to have equal time with their children. Studies have shown that children do better when they have both parents in their lives. There are multiple benefits to good co-parenting communication and knowing how to put your children first. So, what can you do to foster and encourage a strong relationship between your children and co-parent, even if distancing is necessary?
Tips on Effective Co-Parenting Communication
Stick to a Schedule
Children thrive on routines. It provides them with a sense of comfort and security and teaches them to trust. If you’re the parent your child primarily lives with, keep your co-parent in the loop by giving them your child’s schedule. The schedule should include activities your child is involved in and times when they can communicate with their other parent. This allows your co-parent to remain in constant communication with your children, even when they aren’t physically present. It creates a more amicable environment between the two of you and puts your children first. By creating a schedule and keeping your co-parent informed, no one is left in the dark. Your children will have a sense of security, your co-parent will know what’s going on, and their conversations can focus more on quality.
Take Advantage of Technology
Now, more than ever, people are taking advantage of technology to stay connected. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that without certain types of technology we’d feel a lot more isolated! Thanks to tech advancements, it’s relatively easy to stay connected and communicate with people on a regular basis. It’s no “replacement” for in person quality time, but technology allows your children to connect with their other parent when not physically possible. If your children have their own phones or tablets, set them up for a strong, communicative relationship with their parent. You can do this by:
- Creating a Skype or Zoom account for them
- Encouraging FaceTiming
- Uploading their school projects and homework into the cloud for both parents to see
- Establishing a schedule for your co-parent to “play games” with your children online
- Allowing your co-parent to read a story to your children via video chat one night a week
You can also include your co-parent in major milestones, even if they can’t be there in person. If your child is having a birthday party, include your co-parent via video by doing a little planning ahead. If you only have one central computer in your house, you can still encourage regular communication via video chat. Just make sure your children understand how to stay safe online and they develop healthy computer habits. A chart and timer to monitor their usage is a good way to ensure they’re using the computer responsibly.
Establish a Unique Parenting Arrangement
If you have shared custody of your children, living close by is often necessary. However, when one parent has “primary” custody of the children, things can be more complicated. Arrangements need to be made to ensure your co-parent still has ample opportunity to be involved in their children’s lives. In most cases, established schedules allow the non-custodial parent to spend time with their children on predetermined days. This often depends on the schedules of the custodial parent, the non-custodial parent, and the children. However, even with schedules that clash, it’s possible to ensure both parents have equal and balanced time with their children. For example, if the kids attend after-school extracurriculars, parents can swap who drops off, picks up, and more. Even small, regular get-togethers in this way can be beneficial to maintaining strong relationships. If this kind of schedule isn’t possible, parents should collaborate to establish something that works for all parties involved. For example, if one parent lives hours away, it’s not feasible for them to take their children every other weekend. Video chats might help to keep connections strong in the interim, but they’re no replacement for time spent together, in person. One possible solution is a schedule that allows the long-distance parent to spend large blocks of time with their children. Common options are:
- Several weeks in the summer
- A long holiday break in the winter
- Spring break
- A week-long vacation in the middle of the school year
Encouraging strong co-parenting communication with a parent who doesn’t often get to see their children in person can be tricky. The most important thing about any arrangement is putting your children first. Remember, they need a familiar routine and they need to feel safe and secure. Make your unique arrangements with their best interests at heart. It can require a bit of creativity and a willingness to work with your co-parent. But, if you’re able to do that, you’ll be creating a better experience for your children.