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Foreword Magazine"Friendly style welcomes parents...practical advice. Should be read by all parents approaching a divorce or struggling...after one."
How To Parent with Your Ex provides support for the difficult situation the non-residential parent is in and practical, to-the-point advice about how to reap the most benefits from the visitation ...
How To Parent with Your Ex provides support for the difficult situation the non-residential parent is in and practical, to-the-point advice about how to reap the most benefits from the visitation time available. Conversely, it addresses the role of the residential parent and the need to understand the changing relationships the child is going through. By focusing on the child, both parents are able to solidify a special relationship with the child and maintain necessary, positive communication with the ex-spouse.
Appendices for this text include various parenting organizations, publication resources, related websites and sample visitation plans and schedules.
Excerpted from How to Parent with Your Ex by Brette McWhorter Sember, Attorney at Law © 2005
Now that the dust has cleared and you know what kind of arrangement you are going to have to live with, it's time to face reality. First, you need to completely understand your parenting plan details and what rights you have. Next, you will need to take a look at what that really means for you and your child. While it may be hard to adjust to your new life, you will find that there are many bright spots in it. This chapter will help you get a grip on your life and help you see what you have to smile about.
Now that you have residential or legal custody, you might not be entirely sure what rights that gives you. First, you need to read the judge's order or your settlement agreement carefully. The following are some of the possible custody and visitation arrangements you might have.
Joint Custody with Visitation.
You and the other parent share joint custody, with the child residing with you and visiting with the other parent. Joint custody means you are supposed to make decisions together about the child, such as where he or she goes to school, whether to have medical procedures done, etc. Joint custodians are expected to be able to communicate with each other. You, as the person the child primarily lives with, have residential custody. The other parent has visitation according to a schedule or when you both agree to it.
Sole Custody and Visitation.
In this arrangement, you have sole custody and the other parent has visitation. This means the child lives primarily with you, and that you make most of the decisions about the child and are not required to get the other parent's input. The other parent has visitation at set times or at times as agreed upon.
In this scenario, the child splits his or her time equally between you and the other parent. Both of you are responsible for making decisions about the child. Neither is considered to be the residential parent.
If you are not sure which type of arrangement you have, call your attorney or mediator for help in understanding the wording in your judgment or order.
The most important thing to remember about the different arrangements is that they are just words. Your child is still your child. Your child is still the other parent's child as well. No one can take that away from either of you. Learn the legal term and then forget it.Your focus should be on your relationship with your child, not on a phrase and how it makes you feel; how it makes the other parent feel; or, how other people react to it.
Do Not Get Hung Up on Words
You should not get hung up on the words custody and visitation. You also should not become too focused on the word co-parenting. These are simply terms we use to describe the situation that exists after divorce. When you and the other parent lived in the same house, you were parents together, period. One of you may have spent more time with your child. It is important that you both continue to be parents and that your child continues to see you both as his or her parents.
Children are not something you get custody of. The only time people are taken into custody is when they are arrested. There is nothing remotely militant about being a parent. Parents do not visit with their children. Parents live with their children. This is what you will both now be doing, except you will be doing it in different homes and at different times. In fact, many attorneys, mediators, and judges are moving away from this poor choice of words and are now talking about parenting time, parenting access, parenting plans, and parenting schedules. Try using these words because they will make your child feel more comfortable and will also make the other parent feel more comfortable. Try to see past the words to what is at the heart of the matter-your child. The other parent is much more than a visitor to your child.
Things Will Not Be the Same
Now that you have digested the legal terms and gotten past them, you need to face another mental challenge. Nothing in your life will ever be the same. That statement may seem to be huge, unfair, and unbearable, but it is true. Your relationship with your child's other parent did not work and you have parted. You are living apart, and this means that in order for your child to receive the benefit of being loved and supported by both parents, all three of you now must make changes and concessions to adapt to this new way of life.
Just because a situation is different, does not mean it cannot be as good-or better-than the previous situation. Think about how unhappy everyone was when the relationship was coming apart. It was not a healthy situation for your child or for anyone else- which is why you got out. You now have the chance to build your own life and make your own way. You will have to make arrangements in order to include your child in your life and make sure the other parent is included in your child's life. This means that you will have to make some concessions. The situation will not always meet your ideal. However, it will be the family your child has, and your job is to make the best of it and focus on the positives.
Look at the Other Side
Just because your child will be spending more time with you does not make you the parenting god, so to speak. It is very important that you recognize that both parents are important. You cannot change the other parent. You cannot change his or her behavior. And, you cannot stop your child from loving him or her. You can find a way to accept that your child has two parents who are equally important in his or her life.
Your child has-and needs to continue to have-two parents who can, on some level, work together as parents. You may have divorced or separated from the other parent, but for the rest of your lives you will be parents together. You have to accept this and find a way to make it work. You need to take a step back and view the situation from the other parent's point of view. He or she feels stripped of his or her parenting rights. A judge or an agreement has essentially pushed him or her aside and given you more time with your child. This must hurt. He or she feels afraid, cheated, and lost, whether or not you believe he or she has a right to feel this way. Many times nonresidential parents react to this by being mean, hurtful, or by withdrawing. Think about how you would feel if you were to switch positions. You might feel the same way.
Whether you believe it is right or are happy about it, your child needs to continue to have a relationship with the other parent. Your job is to make sure that happens. This is part of the responsibility of being the residential parent. You must push aside the bad feelings you have about the other parent. In order for your child to grow up feeling loved, healthy, and secure, you must make sure that you make room in your child's life for the other parent.
You might be asking, Why am I responsible for his or her relationship with my child? Because this is what is best for your child. You love your child so much that you want to give him or her the world. Well, this is truly what your child needs. You need to not only make sure your child continues to be close to you, but that there is a closeness with the other parent.Your relationship with- and resentment, anger, hurt, and tangled emotions towards-the other parent must remain separate from this.
Let Go of Anger and Blame
You and the other parent broke up because you fought, were unhappy, or blamed each other for things. Thankfully, that scenario is over.You do not need to live with anger on a daily basis now.You are certainly going to continue to feel some anger, and you probably have many things to blame the other parent for-but it does not need to be a central part of your life now.
If you continue to focus on your anger and blame (no matter how well justified it may be), you are never going to be able to get past it and find happiness on your own. There is no way you can always be angry without having it affect your child. As difficult as the divorce or separation has been for you, it has been at least a hundred times more difficult for your child.
Everything that has happened has been magnified through your child's eyes, increased by total or partial incomprehension, and heavily laced with emotional insecurity and fear. When you are angry around your child, he or she unconsciously interprets some or all of that anger as being directed towards him or her. Think about this-every time you are angry, your child assumes it is because of him or her. Your anger has a very strong effect.
To continue to have a successful relationship with your child, you have to be able to focus mentally and emotionally. Anger is going to get in the way. You need some space in your head and your heart to make a plan for how you are going to parent from now on. If you are angry, you are using a lot of energy and effort for your anger. Remind yourself that the other parent is not worth all the effort and angst. None of this means that you are not going to experience anger in the future. It is most assured that you and the other parent will continue to push each other's buttons. The two of you had a lot of practice and it has become a habit. You're going to have to steer through these situations in the months ahead. If you haul along baggage from the past, it is just going to be harder to manage.
You are also experiencing a lot of hurt and loss. Some things have happened that you did not deserve. You may have been rejected or insulted. Take the time to grieve for what you have lost, to feel the pain that is associated with a relationship ending, and then face the future. You may never completely get over what has happened-in a way, the pain will always be a part of you. But you have to move forward now.
Chapter 1: Moving Forward -
-Dealing with Labels
-Adjusting to Your New Situation
-Dealing with Anger
-Make Your Child Your Priority
-Ways to Move Forward as a Nonresidential Parent
Chapter 2: Understanding Your Relationship with Your Child -
-Reactions to Divorce
-Children's Common Reactions to Divorce
-Ages and Stages
-Girls and Boys
-Getting through Hard Times
-Symptoms of Depression in Children
-Dealing with Your Child's Anger
-Talk to Your Child
-Dealing with Your Child's Fears
-Your Emotional Changes
-Your Child's Emotional Changes
-Good Times and Bad Times
Chapter 3: Talking with Your Child -
-Things to Say to Your Child
-Things Not to Say to Your Child
-Developing Your Listening Skills
Chapter 4: Setting Guidelines for Your Child -
-Rules for Two Homes
-Rule-Making with the Other Parent
-Rules to Discuss with the Other Parent
-Ways to Talk about Rules with Your Child
-Sample House Rules List
-Sample Sticker Chart
-Sample Contract with a Teen
-When You Disagree with the Other Parent
-Things Your Child Reports
-Coping with Rules
Chapter 5: Setting Expectations for Yourself -
-Watch Your Words
-Talk to Your Child
-How to Talk about the Divorce or Separation
-Be On Time
-Paying Child Support
-Make the Most of the Time You Have
-Rules to Set for Yourself
Chapter 6: Dealing with the Other Parent -
-Create a New Partnership
-Give and Take
-Create a Written Schedule
-Bite Your Tongue
-A Mediator Can Help
-Taking the Business Transaction Approach
Chapter 7: Coping with Visitation -
-Changing How You Think
-You Are Not an Entertainer
-Continuing Daily Activities
-Making Your Child Part of Your Home
-Finding New Things to Do
-Dealing with Belongings
-Sample List of Belongings that Travel with Your Child
-Ideas for Activities
-Things to Do at Home with Your Child
-Ideas for Outings with Your Child
-When You Don't Need Help
-Dealing with Medication
-Sample Dosage Chart
-Keeping Track of Feeding and Sleeping
-Sample Sleep and Feeding Schedule Chart
-Interference With Your Scheduled Time
Chapter 8: Scheduling -
-Dealing with the Schedule
-Sample Scheduling Rules
-Incorporating Your Child's Events
-Time for Friends
-Working Out Problems
-Making Changes to Your Life
-Maximizing Visitation Time
-Understanding Some Schedule Basics
-Schedules Do Not Impact Child Support
-When Your Child Doesn't Want to Go
Chapter 9: Dealing With Holidays and Celebrations -
-Dealing with Expectations
-Holidays when You are Together
-Holiday Traps to Avoid
-Tips for Handling Holidays Alone
-Holidays with the Other Parent
-Staying on Track
Chapter 10: Long-Distance Parenting -
-Adjusting to a Long-Distance Relationship
-Far, but not that Far
-Coping with Distance
-Ways to Stay in Touch
-Long-Distance Parenting Tips
Chapter 11: Other People InvolvedWith Visitation -
-Teachers and Schools
-Doctors and Dentists
-Authorization to Obtain Medical Care
-Friends and Relatives
-Former Relatives and Friends
-When the Other Parent Dates
-If the Other Parent Remarries
-Dealing with Stepfamily Problems
-Tips for Stepfamily Parenting
Chapter 12: Dealing With Ages and Stages -
-The Teen Years
-When Your Child is Grown
-Brothers and Sisters
Chapter 13: Special Situations -
-Physical or Sexual Abuse
-Signs You may Need to Get Help for Your Child
-Reservations about the Other Parent
-Changing Your Mind
-If You Want to Wash Your Hands of the Situation
-Coping with Supervised Visitation
-When Your Child Won't Visit
-A Child with Special Needs
-Things that Supercede Visitation
-For Those in the Military
-Traveling for Work
-An Adopted Child
Chapter 14: Conclusion -
Appendix A: Sample Parenting Plans-
Appendix B: Resources -
Appendix C: Canadian Resources -
Appendix D: Telephone Numbers for Reporting Child Abuse (State by State) -
About the Author