My current guest is Terry who writes the blog, Scribblings of a Soccer Mom. It only took a few visits to her blog for me to sense that Terry is doing an awesome job of co-parenting with her ex. Terry says that moving past the anger and hurt of her divorce has helped her to co-parent successfully but above that is a philosophy to do what is best for the children. Here’s Terry:
We talk almost every day depending on what is going on in the kids’ lives. They go to their dad every Monday and Tuesday after school, and then every Wednesday and Thursday after school, they come to my house, switching off every other week. So every other week, I have five days in a row with them.
They have friends that were doing this before, so when we suggested this to them, it wasn’t weird for them to adjust to it. They were like “okay, yeah.”
He was a really good dad, he still is a really good dad, and I think that’s how I’ve been able to co-parent with him. I feel very comfortable when they’re over there, just like he feels very comfortable when they’re with me. My kids are very involved in sports, so we see each other at soccer fields and things like that and we’ll sit next to each other and we’re able to both be in front of our children, even with our significant others, as well, so all four of us can be there talking to our children and able to talk to one another, as well.
I think for the kids’ sake, they’re not having to feel like they have to choose anybody. They can go to either one of us, any one of the four of us, really, and know they’ll be supported and able to talk to the other parent without a fight. We didn’t fight much when we were married, so it’s not hard to not fight with him now.
He’ll copy me on emails he sends to my son’s teacher. I might call, or we both sit in together at teacher conferences every year and tell the teachers,
“We’re united in this, whatever you need.”
We talked most when we were separating:
“This is what I want to see for the kids. So if I make a rule at my house, I want it to be a rule at your house, and if the teacher contacts you, I want you to contact me and tell me what the teacher says as well so that we’re all in that loop.”
How to co-parent was the easiest thing we agreed on. He is a kid of divorce and his parents never got along, did not do any of the above, and he didn’t want that for our children. We were both going to conferences and talking and stuff when we were married, so he was like,
“We’re just going to make that work for them.”
That was very easy to agree on.
What I take from Terry’s story are some critical elements for successful parenting:
- a philosophy that puts the children first;
- an acceptance that your ex has an important parenting role to play and wants to be actively involved;
- a commitment to open communication about the children.
Almost every aspect of a parenting plan can be approached starting with the children, as another of my guests, Kathleen did. Terry and her ex demonstrate this here by looking for a schedule that wasn’t foreign to their children and in the process lessening the change their divorce would mean. They also think about their children by sitting together at soccer games. It might seem like a small thing but in the eyes of children it’s huge – imagine, after the game wanting to get a hug from your parents and not knowing which side of the field to run to and feeling that you’re bound to upset one parent by going to the other one first.
Terry’s recognition that her ex is a good dad is similar to Kristi saying that her ex is still her children’s father and Carolyn saying that her ex may have been a lousy husband but he’s a great dad. They’re all able to separate their spousal relationship from their parenting relationship and recognizing the value of their ex as their children’s father, sends a clear message to the children, that they not being asked to choose between parents. More than that, your children can feel safe knowing that they don’t have justify or explain wanting to spend time with the other parent.
The communication piece is what, in my opinion makes it all work but it’s to be a two-way street. It’s impossible to be actively involved when you only get part of the information or when you never act on the information. Terry’s co-parenting works because both she and her ex are committed to making it work.