Many parents fear that they will not be able to maintain a relationship with their children after divorce or separation. While it is true that the relationship will change, the good news is that you can make the relationship with your children stronger. With some effort you can strengthen your relationships with your children. Here are some ideas:
1. Use Skype. This is a free internet-based video conferencing system you can use to see and talk with your kids. All that’s required is high speed internet access and a webcam (they aren’t expensive) on each computer. It’s almost like being in the same room and is especially good with younger children.
2. Use email, texting, Facebook or whatever internet-based system your child may be using. Even a brief text message exchange can make you both feel connected. However, do not interfere with your ex spouse’s time with the children.
3. Schedule regular telephone calls. They may be brief but they keep you connected.
4. Go to your child’s extracurricular activities as much as possible including their hockey practices and games, music recitals, dance lessons and school field trips. Even if you don’t speak to your child, it will show him or her that you care and will give you something to talk about next time they are in your care.
5. Focus on the children. When you have custody of your children, keep your own activities to a minimum so you can really pay attention to your kids.. If you have chores to do or errands to run do them with your children. Grocery shopping and cooking with kids can be fun and gives them good life lessons.
6. As your children get older, their friends will become more important. Invite your children’s friends to do activities with you and your kids. Bring them on vacations with you or weekend camping trips. If you isolate your children from their friends, they won’t want to keep spending time with you.
7. Teenagers are supposed to push back. Don’t smother them. Let them become more independent and responsible. It’s normal and healthy.
8. Be the adult. Don’t share with your children your own emotional struggles. Let your children focus on being children. If you need to speak to someone about your own issues, get your own Divorce Coach or Family Therapist. Or talk to an experienced mediator.
9. Don’t get into arguments with your ex-spouse in front of the children. They will resent you for it even if you are in the right. Either discuss issues with your ex when the kids aren’t around or are asleep, or use email so the kids won’t see or hear it. Some parents exchange a parenting journal when the children are exchanged. It contains important information about the children and is used to dialogue about important parenting issues.
10. Spend as much time with your children as possible. If you can avoid the use of babysitters of daycare, do it.
11. Make sure your children know the separation is not their fault, it is okay for them to love both parents and both parents love them. Repeat this often until you are sure they understand.
12. Suggest a “first right to care” agreement with your ex. Offer each other the right of first refusal. For example you might agree that if either parent cannot care for the children for more than 1-2 hours, they will ask the other parent if they are willing and able to do it before getting a babysitter.
13. Be consistent and predictable. If you are scheduled to have the kids in your care Friday at 5:00 p.m., keep your commitment. It breaks your child’s heart when a parent fails to show up at the scheduled pick up time.
14. Don’t badmouth the other parent in front of the children. Your children love the other parent because after all, they are their parent just as you are.
15. Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, integrity, understanding, compassion, commitment and all the good in the mankind, they think of YOU.