Like they say on airplanes, strap on your own oxygen mask first. It’s easier to grapple with the difficulties of co-parenting when your own needs are being met. And if your children are spending time with their other parent, that can often provide you with more time for yourself.
Developing a written parenting agreement with your ex might sound uptight, but it is a proactive way to manage potential conflict. Focus on what you agree about, such as some basic rules that apply in both homes. Include plans for what to do if your custody schedule needs to change on short notice. Who can mind the children? Try to agree some ground rules for introducing the kids to anyone either of you is dating. How long should you wait if the other parent fails to show up for a visit? It is a good idea to have a Plan B for something fun to do with the kids if they get stood up.
During the process of separation and divorce, and afterwards, always strive to be positive and united around the children. Don’t criticise each other in front of them. Asking your kids how their time with their other parent was is fine. It lets them know it is okay to talk about what they did. But avoid a lot of detailed questions so they don’t feel they are being cross-examined.
The process of ending a relationship and building new, separate lives can be painful for everyone. But the long-term outcome can be infinitely healthier and happier for both of you and for the children. Some divorced parents feel that their children get more of each of them because they both have some child-free time to focus on self-care.