If you’re one of those parents sharing custody time with the kids, you know how hard it can be.
Juggling their schedules and coparenting during the school year.
Scheduling time with loved ones and friends during “your” custody time only.
Figuring out any holiday or vacation time.
Feeling like you’re missing out on your kids whenever they are gone.
It’s really hard to not feel like you’re doing something wrong when you’re gone from your kids while your ex has his or her parenting time. It sometimes feels like you’ve gone rogue or something but, you haven’t. It’s just how life is post-divorce.
I used to share custody time 50/50, and so it felt like literally, every second was beyond precious. If that’s your situation, rest assured: even if you’re “absent” from the picture 50% of the time, you’ve got an intense 50% of the time to really make every minute count with your kids. The reality is that if you use your time wisely with your kids, they’ll have a good connection with you, no matter what. Of course, being there as much as possible does matter, but when you’re sharing time with the other parent, don’t despair.
Instead, make the minutes matter by:
1- Scheduling Relationship Time Appropriately:
Okay, here goes.
If your kids don’t know your significant other yet because you’re not ready to introduce the person, schedule dates on times you don’t have the littles as much as is reasonably possible. Or, schedule dates after the kids are asleep. Make the minutes matter by focusing on them as much as possible.
If your kids do know your partner, consider doing these things:
- In addition to time with the kids and your partner, try spending time alone with them without the partner, even if the person is a stepparent, now and then. Getting that one-on-one with any parent, married or divorced, is great for kids.
- Asking them on occasion, if they want the partner to come or stay behind to events. This doesn’t mean the kids decide your relationship—it just means that now and again, you give kids the chance to ask if they just need you or if they don’t. Really, you should try to give the kids every chance to know a new partner and adjust as much as possible. Just don’t forget to ask about how they’re feeling.
2- Designate A Hobby With Them:
Pick something whether it’s a sport, art or another hobby that just you do with them. Even if a new partner is along for the ride, pick a hobby that is special for the kids to do with just you or you and your partner. This will be a great way of bonding together.
3- Speak To Your Boss:
Some bosses won’t give a hoot about your life. If you have a boss that’s decent, try to schedule later work hours during the times you don’t have the kids. This way maybe you have an extra hour or two during the week to be with the kids. Of course, not all of us have this privilege but if you do, use it wisely.
4- Schedule Appointments Around Them:
When I did 50/50 custody, I used to schedule my appointments as much as possible during the times I didn’t have my daughter. It’s harder now, but back then, it meant rather than dragging her to the dentist with me, I could take her to the park.
Even if you just save an extra hour here and there to be with the kids, it adds up in your kids’ hearts and minds.
Think of it as making a deposit in their accounts—their hearts, that is.
5- Set Aside The Phone:
This is a hard one for most parents to do, but if you can, set aside the phone and social media so you can focus on your kid. Your child misses you when not with you and that extra attention during the time you do have your kiddo, will help ease the pain for both of you.
6-Create A Relaxing Bedtime Routine:
Bedtime routines are important for kids and adults. Creating a unique bedtime routine that involves putting away the work and phones and instead, only focusing on the family, will really help everyone’s well being. Plus, the evening time is family time, so let it be special.
7- Moments Matter—Not Gifts:
Many of us fall prey to the Disneyland Dad or Guilty Mom gift nonsense after divorce.
No vacation or treasure trove of toys will make up for the quality interactions you have with your kids. Save your money and instead, play with them. Get on their level. Learn their interests. Set aside your chores and color. Put away the phone and paint. Leave work an extra fifteen minutes early and go home to throw the ball around.
Vacations and toys are nice, but knowing their parents pay attention and love them are far more important to kids than Disneyworld, Game Stop or McDonald’s can ever be.
Don’t forget it!
And always, always…keep in communication with your kids when they’re with the other parent. Yes, some parents are cruel and will cut or limit the time the other parent can talk to their kids, but most won’t do that! FaceTime. Skype. Handwritten cards to the other address. Emails. Goofy texts.
Just do it!
Laura Lifshitz is a pint-sized, battery-operated, writer, comedienne, and single mother. Laura will work for chocolate. The former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate is currently writing about divorce, sex, women’s issues, fitness, parenting, marriage and more for the New York Times, DivorceForce, Women’s Health, Redbook, Working Mother, Pop Sugar, Your Tango and numerous other sites. Her own website is frommtvtomommy.com .