There are some things that people intrinsically know and say they're going to do if they are divorcing with kids—and then the divorce gets ugly.
People stop behaving like adults in the best interest of the kids; and instead, in the best of interest of their own egos and attitudes—the worst for their children.
This is not acceptable. We know way too much about the impact of divorce on children. We all love our kids. Just because the divorce is stressful, it does not mean that parents get to forget about the little human beings that need them so very much to be, civil, mature, and responsible.
Here are 10 things you should do when divorcing with kids:
Don't Compare Them to Your Ex.
Telling your kid in a negative tone of voice: you remind me so much of your father/mother or you act so much like daddy/mommy, is a surefire way to mess up your kids. I don't care if your child is your ex's twin—keep those sentiments to yourself. Save your issues with your ex for your ex, and not your innocent child.
Let The Small Stuff Slide.
Does your ex have the sneakers you bought at his/ her house and not yours? Does your child want to bring toys from your house to your ex's? Does your child not feel well and want to sleep in at the ex's during your custody time? Let it slide. If it's not happening constantly—or affecting YOUR CHILD—drop it.
Positively Encourage Visitation.
Speak positively about your child's time with the other parent. Get excited with them when they can't wait to see mom or dad. If your child is unsettled about a visit, this can be hard to do. In that case, encourage him/her to share feelings about why he/she is unsettled about the visit. You may need to document if you've got a bad situation at the ex's house.
Sometimes your ex may get sick or need to work overtime. Emergencies happen. Bad times fall upon us all. Try to work with your ex. Maybe this means picking up some custody time temporarily, or even just for the day. Maybe this means a schedule adjustment—or a change in pick-up location. Divorce is inconvenient for everyone, but most especially children. Make it easier for them. They didn't ask for this. Period.
Be generous when it comes to money needed for your kids. Stop fighting and haggling over dollars. Obviously, there are some times when you will need to tell your kids, "No, we can't enroll in a pricey activity," but if you're the parent constantly saying no to activities or fighting with your ex over buying clothes or school supplies, YOU are the issue. Cut it out. Everyone is trying his/her best. Work together.
Keep Bad Thoughts About Your Ex to Yourself.
Even tiny comments or things said in a hushed or sarcastic tone about an ex can be detrimental to your kid. When it comes to others talking about your ex, don't let them badmouth your ex in front of your kids either. It's just as bad!
If you can't get along, stick to emails. But whatever the case may be, let the communication be open. Make sure everyone knows what is going on with the kids, both school-wise and health-wise. Let the other parent know what's going on with your littles if you have the kids. Even if you don't like the person, he/she is still your child's parent.
Let Them Talk to the Other Parent.
Cutting off communication with the other parent, unless authorities or counselors advised you to, is wrong. Let your child speak to the other parent. Encourage your child to have a relationship with your ex.
If the kids miss the other parent, get creative. Get on FaceTime. Skype. Send letters. Make up cool jokes and riddles to send to the other parent, who then sends the answers back to the kids. Perhaps get a gadget like the GizmoPal, so your kids can text or say hello to the other parent whenever they want.
If your child has feelings—positive or negative—about the divorce or about how you and your ex handle the situation, listen and encourage your child to share how he/she feels.
Your child has such little control in all of this, and divorce is so inconvenient for them. Make it as easy as possible.
Written by Laura Lifshitz
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.