Co-Parenting During the coronavirus

Coparenting vs coronavirus

The rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic is upending lives everywhere, but it’s putting a strain on a group that already deals with challenges on a routine basis—divorced parents.

Schools and daycare facilities are closing everywhere, which has parents questioning how to keep their children safe. Some are continuing to work, if they’re able, while others are adjusting to life at home full-time under financial strain

Then there is the stress of co-parenting. Many parents are questioning how to handle their existing custody agreements while practicing social distancing. How do you successfully co-parent with an ex when everyone is supposed to stay home?

It’s complicated, but not impossible. We have to respond quickly while accepting that COVID-19 may require us to be lenient and accept change. 

If you’re navigating co-parenting during the coronavirus, keep reading for a guide on how to work with your co-parent to put relationship issues aside for the health and safety of your children.

Communication is Vital

Our world is in crisis, so communication has never been more critical than it is right now. 

For some co-parents in high-conflict relationships, communication is difficult. It causes stress and anxiety, but it’s time to put those feelings aside and focus on the issues. Your family should put the health of everyone at the top of the priority. 

It’s essential to remain on the same page, so the first thing you should do is agree on how to discuss COVID-19 with your children.

How to Talk to Your Children About COVID-19

Your children have likely already seen news of the coronavirus everywhere. It’s on the front page of newspapers, on every news channel, to leaflets at the supermarket.

It’s hard to tell a child they can’t visit the playground or have playdates with friends in a way that won’t make them worry more than they already are. So how do you explain the pandemic to a child?Stay Positive

Children pick up cues from adults. They will react not only to what you say but how you say it as well. So stay positive, remain calm, and speak in a reassuring tone.Be Available

Both parents should be available to listen and talk. Make time to talk together and reassure your children to come to you if they’re unsure about something. Remain Developmentally Appropriate

Take into account the age of your children when answering questions and providing information. You don’t want to overwhelm them with more information than they can handle. 

Do your best to answer their questions honestly and clearly. Remember that you don’t have to know the answer to everything—what matters is that you’re there if they need you.Avoid Stigmas

Don’t use language that blames others. Viruses can make anyone sick—race and ethnicity don’t matter. 

Don’t assume who may or may not have COVID-19—model good behavior for your children.Limit Screen Time

News of the novel coronavirus is all over the television and online. For this reason, consider reducing the amount of screen time your children get each day. Too much information can cause anxiety and panic. 

This is true for adults, too.Tell the Truth

Do, however, provide your children with accurate information. Talk to them about rumors they may see on the Internet, especially social media platforms.

Let them know not to believe everything they see or hear, and not to spread rumors based on inaccurate information.Practice Good Hygiene

Teach your children how to reduce the spread of germs. 

Practice good handwashing habits. If soap and water aren’t available, teach them how to use hand sanitizer. Remind them to sneeze or cough into their elbow or tissue, and always through the tissue in the trash. 

Tell them to keep a safe distance from others who are sick. And lastly, make sure you’re leading by example and doing each of these things, too.

Simple COVID-19 Facts to Share with Children

As you’re having conversations with your children, try to keep information simple. Remind them that both parents and all health and school officials will do everything they can to keep them safe. 

Both parents should become comfortable with the following facts. These will lead conversations about COVID-19 at home and ensure both parents are using the same messaging.What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 stands for “coronavirus disease 2019.” Coronaviruses aren’t new, but this is a new disease not previously seen in humans. 

Recently, COVID-19 has made many people sick. While most people, children especially, will be okay, some people will suffer more than others. Doctors and health officials are working very hard to keep you healthy.How Do You Stay Safe from COVID0-19?

Always practice healthy habits at home, school, and during playtime. Healthy habits that will help are:

  • Keep the germs out of your body by keeping your hands out of your mouth, nose, and eyes. 
  • Never cough or sneeze onto anyone. Use your elbow or a tissue, then throw the tissue away immediately.
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with hot, soapy water. To make sure you’re washing long enough, sing the song “Happy Birthday” twice.
  • If soap and water aren’t available, ask an adult to help with hand sanitizer. Never put hand sanitizer in your mouth.
  • Keep the things we touch the cleanest. Have an adult help you wipe doorknobs, light switches, and remote controls.
  • If you’re not feeling well, tell someone and stay home. You don’t want other people’s germs, and they don’t want yours either.

What if You Get Sick?

For most people, COVID-19 disease feels like having the flu. You might have a fever, cough, and have a hard time breathing deeply. Most people who have gotten the disease haven’t been seriously sick.

Only a small group of people have had severe problems and have been admitted to the hospital. Most children don’t get very sick, and most adults who do, get better. 

A fever and a cough doesn’t automatically mean you have COVID-19. You can get sick from all kinds of germs. Remember that if you do feel unwell, tell an adult and they will help you.

As a parent, if you think your child could be infected with the new coronavirus, call ahead before arriving at any healthcare facility. 

Co-Parenting Guidelines for the COVID-19 Pandemic

Once you’re on the same page about how to communicate the facts of COVID-19 to your children, it’s time to talk about how the pandemic will or will not affect your co-parenting agreement.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts have jointly released a set of guidelines for co-parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These guidelines are meant to provide advice and clarity for how to handle court orders and co-parenting agreements during this trying time.

1. Be Healthy

Be a good model for your children by following all CDC, local, and state guidelines. 

Lead by example by showing your children intensive handwashing, wiping down surfaces and other objects that are frequently touched. Practice social distancing and stay informed to avoid falling victim to the rumor mill.

2. Be Mindful

While you should recognize the severity of the pandemic, you should remain calm and reassure your children that everything will return to normal eventually.

And if you have a good relationship with your co-parent, consider being proactive like Carolina from Italy:

“My ex-husband and I decided to re-organize our children’s custody in longer periods, to avoid going out frequently. In fact, even though we are close, (5 miles apart) we live in different cities and the government suggested not to move to other cities if you don’t have a good reason or necessity.”

Carolina

3. Be Compliant 

Now is not the time to make up your own rules. Despite the unusual circumstances, you should continue to follow court orders and custody agreements. 

These agreements exist to prevent haggling over details. Most custody agreements, for example, mandate that custody agreements should remain in force as though school is in session, even if they are closed. 

4. Be Creative

While you should do your best to stay compliant, it’s evident that things will change when travel is restricted. Some parents will be working extra hours, while others will lose their jobs. 

Plans will inevitably change, but each parent should encourage closeness with the other. If one parent loses time, get created with shared books, movies, and games. Communicate with platforms such as FaceTime or Skype.

5. Be Transparent

Now is not the time to withhold information from your co-parent. If you suspect that you have been exposed to the virus, provide honest information. Agree on the steps each of you will take to protect your children.

If a child exhibits symptoms of the virus, both parents should be notified at once.

And if you’re worried about exposure, understand that you’re only doing what is best for your children by opting to self-quarantine. Attitude is everything, as you can see in the following testimonial by Amelie from France:

“As far as we’re concerned, we’re on alternate custody. The confinement began while the children were at their father’s. We have 3 children: 8, 11 and 14 years old.

Being on good terms, we had no difficulty in agreeing to leave them with him because they are better off at his place, as it is on a farm in the countryside.

For the moment, I’m going to respect a total confinement of 15 days to know if I’m safe and then we’ll see if I try to go and see them.

In the meantime, we talk quite regularly, but only when the children want to because they have other priorities than me! So that reassures me, it means that they are fine and that they don’t miss me!”

Amélie

6. Be Generous

If one parent misses out on time, family law judges will expect reasonable accommodations when they can be made. 

These are highly unusual circumstances, and parents who are inflexible during this time may not fare well in later filings. 

7. Be Understanding

This pandemic is causing economic hardship for many parents, for those who are paying child support and parents who receive it. If you’re providing child support, try to offer something even if it can’t be the court-ordered amount.

The receiving parent should do everything to be accomodating under these challenging circumstances. Now is the time to come together and focus on what is best for the children. 

These strange days will leave many children with vivid memories. What children should be left with is the understanding that both parents did everything they could to keep them safe, while keeping them informed. 

How to Manage Parenting Time Revisions

COVID-19 is causing schedule disruptions that may make it difficult or even impossible to stick to your original parenting plan. It’s likely your agreement didn’t come close to accounting for a situation like this.

The best thing to do is look at your current schedules and come to an agreement on something that everyone can live with, if not be thrilled about.

If you’re having a difficult time figuring this out with your co-parent, remember that there is help available. During this stressful time, you may have to reach out to a professional to assist.

Get Modifications in Writing

If you’re agreeing to slightly different terms than what is outlined in your custody agreement, consider getting the changes in writing. If you think your ex might take advantage of this amended parenting plan after the pandemic, this is even more essential.

If you’re concerned, have your mediator or attorney draft a document outlining the amended schedule. Have them include a stipulation that the plan is not setting a precedent and has an end date. If everyone signs it now, it can be filed once the courts reopen. 

This Too Shall Pass

Many things feel out of control right now. It’s essential to remember that this hardship, no matter how long it lasts, will eventually end. 

Eventually, life will return to normal, and we will all go back to work and resume the activities we enjoy. The best thing you can do for your children and your co-parenting relationships is to be understanding and patient. Keeping conflicts to a minimum will help you and your family manage the stress. 

Don’t forget that you’re not alone in dealing with this, and there are resources available to you if you need them.

Being a Stepmom – How Difficult Is It?

Being a Stepmom

Parenting has never been for the faint of heart. It comes with 24/7 worries and requires an endless supply of patience. There are also downright thankless parts of the job. Like dealing with temper tantrums, monitoring screen time, and stepping on Legos barefoot.

Being a stepmom can come with additional baggage, too. After all, we live in a society where the easiest scapegoat has often been stepmom.

Painting stepmoms in less than sympathetic light goes back to some of our oldest stories. Just think Cinderella or Hansel and Gretel, for starters. What would they be without an evil stepmother?

While these stories portray stepmoms in a cruel light, far fewer ones explore the real joys and difficulties of being a stepmother. Let’s take an authentic look at how difficult it is to be a stepmom as well as its hard-earned rewards. 

Motherhood and Bonding

One of the hardest parts of being a stepmom? Playing a challenging game of catch-up. After all, you don’t get the same bonding time with your stepchild that a biological mother does. 

This one even goes for being a stepmom to a toddler. You likely missed out on some of the hardest and most rewarding experiences early on.

Yes, the first few months after you bring home a baby are exhausting, but they also come with critical rewards. Sure, you lose improbable amounts of shuteye. You also spend a serious amount of time bonding with your baby, however. For every one of those long, sleepless nights that you endure, you learn critical things about your baby. From how to read them to what soothes them. You deal with cryfests but you get plenty of hugs and cuddles in return.

You play peek-a-boo while you nurse or bottle-feed your sweet infant. You’re there for everything from baby’s first word to baby’s first steps. Talk about an incredible bonding experience!

Through all of these challenges and joys, nature creates an unbreakable relationship between mother and child. Well, that is, unless you’re a stepmom.

Starting at a Disadvantage

Because stepmoms come into the picture later on, they don’t benefit from these early, intimate moments with their children. As a result, bonding often feels intentional or even forced. 

That’s not to say your stepkids won’t like you. But “like” is something entirely different than the heartfelt bond you establish from infancy with a child.

For stepmoms, parenting doesn’t come from that deep reservoir of love and nurturing that a birth parent draws. Now, that’s not to say you, as a stepmom, don’t love your stepchildren. It is to say, however, that your experiences with them will be different.

In other words, for stepmoms, parenting comes from the head first rather than the heart. As a result, it’s different from the experience mothers so often have with their biological children. This sense of “difference” can lead to lots of second-guessing. 

It can also lead to feelings of shame. After all, aren’t stepmoms supposed to love their step kids the same way they love their biological ones?

Doesn’t any perceived “differences” between how a stepmom treats biological children and stepchildren instantly equate to moral failure? Absolutely not!

That said, our society has both very low expectations for stepmoms and impossibly high standards. 

Playing Catch-Up 

Consider everything you know about your biological child or perhaps a niece or nephew that you’ve been close to since birth. Now think about how long it took you to acquire that knowledge and some of the funny and entertaining stories it involved. 

You’ve got profound memories laid down with your child, niece, or nephew. You’ve also got a profound well of knowledge to draw from when they’re difficult. 

Now imagine trying to describe your child’s needs and wants, preferences, hopes, and dreams in a few minutes to a new teacher or babysitter. It feels weird and oddly difficult, right?

There’s simply too much to say about that darling kiddo. Even if you did manage to relay it all to the new caretaker, you’d still just be scratching the surface. What’s more, no matter what, this teacher or babysitter would be at a distinct disadvantage compared to you.  

That’s the crazy game of catch-up a stepmom has to play. They have to pick up on a child’s entire history at a later date, far removed from the funny anecdotes and precious moments that relayed this information in the first place. They have to make mental notes of favorite foods, allergies, fears, and preferred activities without any real-life milestones to anchor them. The result? The constant, nagging feeling that you’re missing significant pieces of the puzzle. 

The older your stepchildren are when you come into their lives, the more pronounced this game of catch-up. What’s more, kids can develop fierce feelings of loyalty to their parents following divorce, and this can exacerbate the stepchild stepmom relationship.  

Sharing EVERYTHING

Being a stepmom often comes with the challenges of co-parenting. While some stepmothers have exclusive or primary guardianship of their stepchildren, such is not typically the case. Instead, they must navigate the choppy waters of co-parenting.

Countless parenting books tell us that establishing routines are fundamental to a wonderful home life. But if you’re co-parenting, these routines only matter half the time.

After all, when your stepkids aren’t with you, you have little control (or knowledge) of what’s going on. 

No matter how great your relationship is with your stepchildren’s other mom, there’s no way you’ll see eye to eye on everything. You’ll do things differently, and this is something that kids not only pick up on but often exploit. 

While this isn’t a deal-breaker per se, you’ll only have half the time to set and reinforce boundaries. What’s more, you’ll have to remain conscious of the fact that the routine you’re trying to establish may not even exist in the other household. 

Are you sharing parenting responsibilities with another household? Learn more about 50/50 custody arrangements and how to make them work. 

Different Parenting Philosophies

Parenting philosophies can also cause friction. Perhaps you’re more of an attachment style mom while your spouse’s ex is a tiger mom. The bottom line is you’re not going to have the same approach when it comes to parenting. 

Short of a situation that’s dangerous for your step kids, there’s not much you can do about these differences. If you don’t take a more relaxed parenting approach that goes with the flow, the friction of such a situation can prove infuriating.

Many moms feel as if they have to live up to expectations and standards that aren’t their own. Their stepkids may reinforce these feelings by continually comparing their two households.

The feeling that you’re not entirely in control of your life and household can be excruciating. It’s also likely not a feeling that you ever dreamed of having when you were a little girl thinking about a future family. 

Stepparents navigate somewhat messy co-parenting situations at times. It can be hard to accept the fact that you have little control over what your children are learning and doing 50 percent of the time. Fortunately, there are ways to make co-parenting go more smoothly.

The Evil Stepmom Syndrome

Every mother complains about her kids and their behavior from time to time. Whether stories from the diaper trenches or the teenage playbook, moms commiserate to each other. 

When a stepmom complains about a stepchild, however? That’s often considered an unspoken taboo.

Even the most benign statement of critique about a stepchild can put a woman in the “evil stepmother” category. This reality is something that many stepmothers intuitively realize, and so they never have a complaint or say a cross word. 

They also never develop the type of support network that a biological mother does. This fact can make an already tricky situation feel even worse. 

After all, stepmoms have a tendency to second-guess themselves. The last thing they want to do is look mean-spirited or wicked to their friends and family. So, they bottle issues up inside and feel an imperative to keep up appearances. 

Always painting a rosy picture of what is a difficult situation at best comes with long-term consequences. It will leave you feeling isolated, ashamed, and exhausted.

That said, all kids can be frustrating at times, even stepchildren. It’s essential to have somebody trusted that you can talk to and receive advice from when the going gets tough.

Parents and Stepparents

For some stepmoms, they have nobody to whom they can turn. Their spouse can further exacerbate this fact.

For example, your spouse may spoil their children, an unconscious attempt to make up for post-divorce guilt.

Or, your spouse may have deep-seated resentment based on the relationship they had with their stepparent. As a result, your partner may prove just as hypercritical as friends and family when it comes to complaints.  

When you can’t complain to your spouse about something going on with your children, this can lead to an even greater sense of resentment, frustration, and isolation. With no one to turn to or seek advice from, being a stepmom can feel very lonely and confusing.

Finding your place as a stepmom takes time. It also sometimes means keeping negative thoughts to yourself. Finding a trusted confidante outside of the home often proves your best option. Remember, too, that integrating a family requires patience. 

The Joys of Step-Parenting

Of course, step-parenting isn’t all negative by any means. It comes with many small and big rewards. The longer I’m a stepmom, the more convinced I become that celebrating these tiny victories remains key to cultivating a happy home life. 

Past the stereotypes and co-parenting challenges, there’s an abundant wealth of beautiful things associated with having stepchildren. Like suddenly being related to amazing, sweet, beautiful kids.

As your step kids mature, they’ll likely come to appreciate your role as a stepmom, too. 

If you’re bringing together a blended family, it can also be rewarding to watch your children and your spouse’s children come together as siblings over time. Yes, there will be conflicts, but getting along with everyone in a blended family is possible. 

What’s more, depending on your stepkids’ custody situation, you may get the best of both worlds. The chance to parent and get some much-needed downtime as adults. 

This situation is not something that full-time parents get to share in. So, when the stepchildren are at their other house, it’s vital to make time for your spouse and yourself. After all, self-care is critical to maintaining the stamina you need to co-parent.

Having stepchildren also allows you to see different sides of your spouse. You’ll catch breathtaking moments of sweetness and love that you might not otherwise get to see, and these are precious moments to be cherished. 

Stepparenting also allows you to relax as a parent. Because you have to be more flexible about what’s going on in your stepchild’s other home. This flexibility can put parenting struggles you may face with your biological children in perspective. 

Being a Stepmom

Being a stepmom can feel like the fast-track to sainthood (with all of the requisite martyrdom).

Why is stepparenting so tough? For one, because of the crazy stereotypes about stepmoms that have been perpetuated in fairytales, cartoons, and films. In some sense, we’ve all been pre-wired to dislike stepmoms.

Not only is that unfortunate, but it can make a tough situation feel unbearable. Especially when you don’t feel like you have peers or a network of friends to turn to.

Isolation can make the stepmom role much worse, particularly when your spouse is dealing with post-divorce baggage. That said, the stepmom role also comes with amazing perks, such as suddenly being related to awesome kids.

When you set aside unrealistic expectations and take it one day at a time, you’ll find stepparenting to be one of the most blessed roles out there. Keep reading for more advice on living in a blended family

The Importance of the Right of First Refusal Custody Orders

The right of first refusal

Did you know that in 51% of cases, both parents agreed that mom should be the custodial parent? However, where does that leave the other parent? The answer is the right of refusal. 

If you’re unsure what it means, don’t worry, with this guide you can find out! From learning its definition to its pros and cons, the right of first refusal custody can give you just what you want: more time with your child. Yes, that’s correct with the right of first refusal; you can spend an extended amount of time with your kid. 

Now, are you ready to learn how? Here’s an in-depth look at the right of first refusal: 

What Is the Right of First Refusal? 

The right of first refusal or first option for child care is a broad term to describe a child custody provision. It notes that if the custodial parent is unable to be with the child during their allotted time (whether due to school, work, or other engagements) that the other parent is given the option before any other child care options (like daycare, nannies, and babysitters).

The idea is to provide what’s best for the child’s development by placing them in the care of a parent. Since children need to spend as much time as possible with a parent, rather than with a child care provider, this provision is highly regarded. In fact, children who spend long hours with a child care provider are more likely to develop aggressive behavior and poor social skills. Thus, this provision lookouts for the child’s interests and how best to raise him or her.   

Also, it protects your rights as a parent to be with your child. Extended family and even stepparents do not have legal authority over your child, rather you do.

By having the right of the first refusal, you protect your rights to be with your child when the child is not in the custody of the other parent. That way, you can spend time with your child during the divorce process. 

Advantages and Disadvantages

Like anything in life, the right of first refusal has advantages and disadvantages that might not suit each individual couple. Make sure to keep these circumstances in mind when considering fighting for the right of first refusal. 

Pros 

The right of first refusal can help parents manage custody. Since both parents have around equal time with their child. Neither will feel jealous or threaten by the other.  

Instead, it promotes a healthy co-parenting dynamic where parents can communicate with one another. Parents can discuss parent time exchanges and how best to raise their kid. Effective communication between parents is fundamental since it provides a stable environment for children. 

In fact, effective communication in the home will stay with kids throughout the rest of their lives. It will set an example of how to sharing feelings, thoughts, and expressions. It also teaches kids the meaning of a secure relationship.  

Since parents can enjoy one-on-one time with their kids, the right of refusal allows a unique relationship to be developed. In fact, it allows parents to bond and spend time with their children. A recent study found children are most affected by the quality of parenting time rather than the quantity. 

Therefore, a weekend is not just a weekend; instead, it’s an opportunity to get to know your growing child. You may want to set off on an afternoon adventure or use your imagination to become a superhero. You may even become the designated homeworker helper. Just make sure to be involved in their lives and actively participate in childlike games or activities.  

Thus, the right of refusal, when done properly, can help your child succeed in life. It can also help you develop a special relationship with your child as well as help improve communication with your ex. 

Cons

However, the right of first refusal is not for everyone. Since it relies on effective communication, parents who already struggle to communicate might find it challenging to request parenting time. 

How parents communicate requests, however, sometimes determines how successful they are. For example, if a parent simply sends a vague text message that might not be sufficient enough. A parent may want a short phone call where details of the exchange are discussed first. 

At the end of the day, communication is essential in these situations. Parents need to understand what they want, what they need, and ultimately, what is best for their child. 

For the right of first refusal to work properly, parents must trust one another. They should both also understand what’s expected of them in terms of communication and in parenting exchanges.

For instance, is your child allowed to stay up past ten, eat ice cream for breakfast, or not do chores? These are the types of questions that should be discussed with your ex. 

If you two cannot agree, the right of first refusal will only disrupt your child’s life more. In fact, it will make your child’s life confusing and chaotic as both you will have a different set of rules he or she has to obey.  

Who Is It Good For? 

Whether the right for refusal works for you depends on many components. However, here are a few situations where the first right of refusal is generally successful:  

If you and your ex communicate well together, then it’s a good sign that the right of refusal will work. The right of refusal requires regular communication, and parents must do so civilly. 

Of course, communication is a learned skill. However, parents must try not to argue too much. If parents argue on a regular basis, then it can spread tension throughout the household. Your child may get confused or even upset by your fighting. Thus, parents who can communicate their feelings in a calm and understanding manner will have a greater chance of success. 

If you and your ex work well with each other, then it’s likely the right of refusal will be a good option for both of you. Being able to work with flexibility, cooperation, and understanding allows for good co-parenting techniques. 

It also shows your child good teamwork skills and proper communication methods. Parents who practice these skills will notice an increase in self-confidence and self-esteem. 

Thus, it’s likely your child will mirror your feelings and have an increase in self-esteem too. Parents may need help establishing guidelines at first, although parents who work well together will benefit from the right for refusal.  

If either your ex or yourself have difficult schedules, the right to refusal can help with that. Whether it’s due to work, school, or other engagements, if you’re unavailable during your allotted time, that’s where your ex can step in. 

By having someone there to support your child, you don’t have to worry about him or her being looked after by strangers. Instead, your child can be in the safe hands of family. 

Who Is It Not Good For?   

Sometimes a right of refusal would make a situation worse rather than better. Here are a few common situations:

If, for example, there’s been a history of domestic violence between you and your ex, you might want to think twice before agreeing to the right of refusal. Whether there’s been restraining order placed or not, it’s likely not a good idea. 

You see, it could cause more harm to you and your child since you would have to regularly interact and communicate with your ex to discuss the needs of your child. It’s better if you come up with another custody arrangement that better suits your needs. 

If your ex has limited time due to supervised visitation, it would not be advised to seek the right of first refusal. It’s in the child’s best interest to stay full time with a parent that has a stable job and can provide a stable home life for the child.  

If you and your ex live far away from each other, the right of refusal cannot work practically. While it can be accommodated, in theory, however in practice, it won’t work out. It’s best to work out custody arrangements in another way. 

How to Fight for the Right of First Refusal

In some situations, not all parents will agree on the right of first refusal instead; sometimes parents will want to fight for it. This can happen if the custodial parent does not trust that the non-custodial parent can look after the child during their parenting time. 

Factors may be based on an unsafe neighborhood, past criminal history, or struggles with mental health or addiction. However, without an agreement from both parents, a right of first refusal cannot be implemented.   

A right of first refusal can be included after custody is determined. Although it would require modification through the court system. In order for a right of refusal to be applied, the non-custodial parent must prove why having the right of first refusal is beneficial.  

There are numerous ways; one could prove such an argument. For example, you can provide convincing testimony, documents, text messages, or have a witness testify on your behalf.  

You may win your case, if the court finds that the custodial parent is making arrangements only for themselves, but doesn’t grant you, the non-custodial parent, time aside from the allotted time provided by the custody calendar

Not only are the custodial parent hurting you their ex and co-parent, but your children as well. Your children need time with both parents, and since they’re losing out on that quality time, they might have decreased self-confidence. 

Also, the tension that spurs from not seeing your child might foster within the family dynamics and spread unnecessary stress. It’s best to talk a lawyer and fight for the right of refusal as needed. That way, you’ll know if it’s best to communicate your needs through the court system or if maybe you should wait it out and see if your ex responds favorably to your requests.  

How to Avoid Conflict During the Right to Refusal  

While the right of refusal does encourage children to spend more time with both parents, although conflict can make it difficult for parents to plan parent time exchanges. It’s best to keep each other informed about any uncertain plans that may require adjustments to be made. That way, no arguments break out, or tensions are flared. Rather everyone’s on the same page about the family schedule, including children. 

Children should be kept in the loop and told as much information about who is spending time with who. That way, children are less confused as to why they are spending this weekend with mommy vs. this weekend with daddy.  

Are You Ready to Fight for the Right of First Refusal Custody?  

The right of first refusal custody protects your rights to be with your child as a parent. That way, you can spend quality one-on-one time getting to know your child and watching him or her grow up. 

Just remember the right to the first refusal is centered around effective communication. Thus, if you and your ex struggle to communicate, the right of refusal might not be the correct custody strategy for you. Although if you two work well as a team, you’ll have a greater chance of success. 

50/50 Custody: How to Make Arrangements Work

50/50 custody

Studies have found that children who spend at least 35% of their time with each of their parents have better academic, social, and psychological outcomes. Joint custody is becoming more common and courts are eager to settle on agreements whereby children get to spend time with both of their parents.

In some instances of joint custody, there is one parent with primary custody. In other words, they have physical care of the child more frequently and they often make the majority of the child’s legal decisions, as well. What about in cases of 50/50 custody?

50/50 custody is exactly what it sounds like. Both parents share equal responsibility, equal physical care, and equal legal care. The question is, how do two divorced parents make 50/50 custody work?

Read on to find out more about what you and your former partner can do to get and maintain 50/50 custody!

What Do You Need to Prove to Get 50/50 Custody?

For starters, custody laws vary by state. While all states will consider granting joint custody, they may take into account different factors when making this decision. For example, many states heavily consider the child’s personal wishes while others focus primarily on each parent’s practical ability to provide for the child.

In order to get 50/50 custody, there are a few factors that are almost always required of both parents. 

Location

Some joint custody agreements can be reached even when parents live in separate states. For example, some courts will rule that a parent can have joint legal custody from afar. Some children will spend summers with one parent and the school year with another.

However, with a 50/50 custody agreement, it is imperative that the parents live in the same area. Since the child will spend time with both of you equally, you will both be responsible for getting them to school, extracurriculars, doctor’s appointments, and more.

Living close by ensures that your child will maintain stability even as they move between both households on a regular basis!

Financial Stability and Availability

Although love and support is always a key factor in custody agreements, the court must consider money, too. While you or your former spouse might agree to shoulder more of the financial responsibility for raising your child, the court needs to ensure that you are both capable of providing necessities. That way, even if your informal agreements change in the future, the child’s needs will still be covered. 

At the same time that financial stability will improve your odds of getting 50/50 custody, you will also need to prove that you are available for this kind of parenting schedule. The court will want to know what kind of hours you work, how often you are required to travel, and how flexible your job is in the event of an emergency.

For example, will your boss let you leave work early if you get a call from your child’s school saying that they are ill? How often will you need help from a nanny, babysitter, or child care program? If one parent is substantially less available than the other, the court will probably push for the available parent to have primary joint custody. 

Emotional Connection and Involvement

Emotional connection is where your child’s wishes come into play most heavily. You are most likely to get a 50/50 custody agreement if you can demonstrate that your child is has a deep emotional connection with both of you, rather than one over the other. 

Studies have found that gender bias often comes into play, even in a court of law. Many people operate on the belief that mothers have deeper connections with their children and the innate ability to stay involved in their child’s life. Unfortunately, this gender bias does contribute to the difficulty fathers may face in trying to fight for their own custody rights.

An emotional connection may be hard to measure, which is why establishing involvement is crucial in custody cases. If you are hoping for a 50/50 custody agreement, it is imperative that you both document evidence of their even involvement in your child’s life. 

Emotional and Mental Stability

Now is the time to set aside any personal disagreements and work together to show the court that you both believe in each other’s ability to raise your child. No matter how much the court wants to grant 50/50 custody for the sake of the child, they can only do so if they’re certain that both parents are willing to cooperate with one another.

Note that emotional and mental stability extends beyond your treatment of one another. If either parent has a history of mental illness that could reasonably put themselves or the child in danger, the path towards custody may be strained. The court will need to see that the parent in question is actively participating in a treatment plan and that the treatment plan is effective. 

We Got 50/50 Custody. Now What?

Most states will want to see some kind of parenting plan before they officially grant 50/50 custody. Parenting plans cover the basic weekly schedule as well as decision-making methods you will use, amongst other things. 

50/50 custody is a fantastic option for many children but it does require some serious thought and work on the parents’ end. We’re going to talk about some of the things you can do to make 50/50 custody work. Not only will these considerations help you talk through your parenting plan but they’ll help you find ways to work together as a team in spite of your separation.

Stay on the Same Page

We’re all human, right? It’s not unthinkable that miscommunications will occur. For example, you might think your former spouse agreed to watch your child this weekend when they actually said next weekend.

To avoid these kinds of mishaps, take advantage of growing technology to stay on the same page. Manage your calendar, shared financial responsibilities, and more with online tools and services. Synchronizing your availability, responsibilities, and even your observations about your child’s development will ensure that you both have all of the resources available to work as a team from separate households. 

Plan Your Flexibility

Planning your flexibility sounds counterintuitive, but hear us out. You can’t predict the unforeseen but you can come up with a gameplan to deal with last-minute changes to your schedule!

Imagine scenarios in which one parent becomes indisposed.

For example, what will you do if the parent who is scheduled to pick up your child from school experiences car trouble? Will the other parent fill in? Is there a trusted friend or relative you can both call upon in these types of situations? 

Having multiple back-up plans is a great way to avoid frustration and confusion. Remember that although you may both be two single parents, you are raising the same child. What happens to the child when one or both of you run into unexpected circumstances is still the business of both parents. 

Establish a Mode of Communication and Connection

It’s not always easy to keep lines of communication open with a former partner. You may have interpersonal problems that make communication difficult or unpleasant. For that reason, it’s best to come up with a day-to-day communication and connection plan that will cause the least amount of stress or strain. 

If talking on the phone opens the door to negative conversations unrelated to your child, consider relying on texting or email for your regular correspondence. Keep all discussions focused on the child and your responsibilities as parents. 

As far as connection goes, we’re referring to the moments when you may come into face-to-face contact out of necessity. For example, you may both be present for drop-offs, doctors’ appointments, and parent-teacher conferences. You may want to establish ground rules in advance.

Remember that in emergencies, your typical methods and ground rules may have to be set aside. For example, while you may avoid phone calls on a regular basis, they are still the fastest and most direct way to reach one another. Setting aside personal differences for the sake of your child is always the sign of strong parenthood!

Get Connected to Make 50/50 Custody Work

Parents who get 50/50 custody of their child are in a unique situation. In spite of their separation, they must maintain a certain degree of closeness in order to parent as a team.

For that reason, there are parenting tools affordable and easy to set up, access, and use. 

The essential of Indiana parenting time guidelines

parenting time guidelines

As per the latest statistics attained from The Centers and Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of divorce in the US is witnessed to be 3.2 out of every 1,000 people (Kennedy and Ruggles, 2014). This leaves behind quite a larger number of under-aged children to be deprived of the affection, time and upbringing from both of their parents. With the decision of separation taken by the mutual decision of parent, children are the ones that are affected the most and may lead them with several emotional and behavioral disorders and instability. It develops in them some complexes, depression and a sense of loneliness and being unloved which further lead to an emotionally painful process throughout every phase of their lives (Valenzuela, Halpern and Katz, 2014). For the mitigation of such a rising issues of divorce and considering the worst impacts of it on the minds of growing children, parenting guidelines are introduced and several mobile application and websites have been devoted for the cause of time management and visitation of parental guidelines for those who do not have custody of their children in order spend time with them and to cope up with the potential impacts of separation on children and adolescents.

Impacts of Divorce on Children

The continued long-term chain of conflicts among the parents until the time of separation causes a devastating impact on the children’s psychological and emotional health and for the parents themselves. It is often difficult for parents to sort out what exactly their children are going through and thinking of such a drastic change in their life. There seems to develop a distance among children and parents which causes a communication barrier (Jeynes, 2012). Children tend not to share their feelings and suppress their emotions which consequently creates a harmful impact on their mental and emotional health, causing a lifetime deprivation of basic need for love and homely environment. Besides, divorce itself is a painful and stressful process for the separated spouse as well, which makes it’s even harder for parents to manage their own raw emotion and continuing hostility to aid their children’s needs immaculately side by side. Moreover, the legal processes for the attainment of a child’s custody is more inclined towards adversaries and blame rather than focusing on the interest of children (Weaver and Schofield, 2015). This ongoing conflict also contributes highly to erode effective parenting, resulting in causing abnormalities, instability and problems in children’s behavior and emotion. Some of the most commonly occurring debilitating issues faced by children whilst moving into their adulthood with separated parents are:

Trust Issues

Children having experienced unsavory time often faced with trust issues throughout their lives. It causes a continuous struggle for children to revive back the trust and honesty in relationships which consequently also reflects in their personal marital lives in the future (Anderson, 2014). The trust issue of parent’s plague children, resulting in shadowing their ability to trust others. Such a devastating experience in children’s live and ongoing conflicts of parenting in their feeble age tend them to lose their trust in honesty, love, and loyalty in relationships.

Resentment

The resentment shown by the parents can result to be the facet of children. The experience of separation and struggle to attain the custody of a child results in resentment of quality of life, loss of time and happiness (Fagan and Churchill, 2012). Such a resented, if remained untreated and unmeasured, can result in being absolutely debilitating. The continued struggle of a child to take care emotionally of the wounded parents would lose the colors in their growing lives as a kid.

Addiction

The children faced with the abrupt divorce of their parents often end up doing drugs and more highly susceptible to abuse and harm themselves (Kalmijn, 2012). The troubled childhood often tends them to opt for drugs to spiritually and emotionally heal themselves and to release their anxiety, pain and frustration.

Mental Issues

The experience of the conflicts that lead parents to get separated to the point where they become emotionally fragile, such a constant phase of fight, struggle between the loved ones and broken family lead a child to be nothing but depressed, filled with several insecurities, resilience, anger, trust issues and many infectious emotions that might never let him lead a normal and happy life ahead (Amato, 2014).

Co-Dependency

Co-dependency is often encountered by the children of a divided family which refers to losing a sense of self-identity and to be dependent on an emotionally troubled partner (Larson and Halfon, 2013). Such an experience causes troublesome reliance on emotions on a partner to fulfill self-esteem needs.

How to Deal with the Behavioral and Emotional Problems of Children:

There are measures and steps that separating parents can perform in order to minimize the negativity of the impacts of divorce on children. Children often show greater vulnerabilities at this point in time yet with resilience. No matter what the reason lies behind the marital separation decision, but parent mostly seems to be well-intentioned towards their children (Divorce, 2019). Despite the pain of divorce, separation brings with it several other stressful occurrences like legal battles, houses move, supportive relationships loss and money deprivation etc., all include the basics and fundamental needs of life required by all, especially children experiencing it. Children tend to suffer a range of social and emotional difficulties consequently (RC PSYCH, 2019).
However, with effective management and mutual efforts made by the parents, several steps can be taken to cope up with the negative effects of divorce on children (The Irish Times, 2019). There exists a greater possibility and high probability of children leading quite a normal and happy life ahead if parents tend to mitigate the pitfalls in their children’s lives and manage to help children go through the process of separation by implementing some of the below mentioned effective parenting practices:

Implementing Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines

The guidelines dictate specifically regarding the visitation rules as per the age and other factors of children. It entails vividly about the parental visitation rules among various events, festival, holidays and timelines where they are supposed to meet and spend time with their children, varying as per child’s age (In, 2019). It suggests the parents discuss the time of visitation but if not then non-custodial parents are required to schedule to visit. For the parents how to live far away from one another are also given suggestion on the underlying issue. Parents are therefore required to follow such a visitation guideline to perform effective parenting and give time to their children (Indiana Legal Services, 2019).

Manage your Personal Stress Level to Rightfully Perform Effective Parenting

It is a normal case to go through a roller-coaster of emotion, shame, guilt, anger and grief through the process of separation (HelpGuide, 2019). At such a time, children need the support of parents the most. But in order to be a pillar for children, it is necessary for parents to deal with their stress by means of counseling or any help with close friends (Help and Counseling, 2019).

Constructively Work with Your Former Spouse to Deal with Parenting Issues

The most concerning issue faced by the separating is the ongoing conflicts of the spouse. It makes for parents difficult to develop a constructive relationship with the children. By creating a harmonious environment of family and mutual well-intensions for the children, arrangements can be made for the interest of children by means of shared expenses, custody calendar, shared calendar, use of parenting app, divorce app and family organizer, etc. (Clark et al., 2013)

Use Parenting Applications to Manage the Family’s Schedule

The use of parenting and the co-parenting application would be quite useful in such a case in managing the family’s information in an organized and well-documented manner (McMahon, 2012). There are several best parenting applications to manage your family schedule with also allows sharing the calendar with your spouse to coordinate respectively and give the most memorable and well-nourished moments to your children.

Help Children Give Balanced Loyalty, Love and Time

Make sure to mitigate the divided loyalty experience by your children and try to provide them an appropriate, balanced and age-appropriate account of divorce. One should try speaking only positives about the ex-partner and help prevent infusing negativity among either of them in children’s minds. Never use children as a go-between medium, rather talk directly (HelpGuide, 2019).
Have Open Communication with your Children
It is important to make time for children to carry out one-to-one conversation to help children open up their true emotion and letting their grief out of their chests. Children often conceal their emotions and perplexed thoughts (Nationwidechildrens, 2019). Work hard to eliminate all their queries and share feelings among one another to cope with the struggle together.

Minimize the Changes in Children’s Life

Separation often comes with the loss of friends, family and old house as well which harshly affects children more than the grief of divorce itself (Caringforkids, 2019). It is suggested to maintain as many good old things, memories and experiences as possible and help introduce a new yet positive change in children’s lives in a subtle manner rather than drastically introducing abrupt change in lives.

Activities to Help Children Deal with Divorce

Divorce is a life transitioning event for both, the parents and the children. Both go through a verity of emotions, especially affecting the young minds of children (Raising Children Network, 2019). Parents ought to not only cope up with their emotional stability as soon as possible but also provide support to their children to deal with their concerns, feelings and frustration faced due to separation.

Visit Them Frequently

Manage your schedule and cope with the ex-partner to go visit the child, if he/she is not in your custody. Make use of schedule managing parenting mobile and web applications to deal with the issue efficiently and to also coordinate the timetable with the partner by means of sharing calendar through the apps to give children the love and affection of both, mommy and daddy (Jannese, 2019).

Communicate from Distance

If one of the parents lives abroad or far away from the recent caretaker of children, then parents are suggested to continue communicating with the children to retain a strong relationship with them. This can be done by emailing each other, weekly or monthly basis phone calls, writing the letter, exchanging video and audio recording to share the moments or initiate a postcard club etc. (Parents, 2019)

Spend Time Together on Holidays and Festival

Festivals, holidays and events are the occasions where every family spend their time together and make unforgettable memories. This is where a child with broken family wants their parents the most to get reunited and experience the same emotions as every other child. Halloween, Christmas, summer vacations and important school occasions of children can be made memorable together as a family (Verywell Family, 2019).

Play Together

Playing with children often helps them to express their feelings and relieve their stress and give them a sense of belonging, affection and love from their parents that might have been shadowed by the experience of divorce (Afifi, 2019). Exercise, walking, camping and swimming etc. can be effective ways to make memories with children.

Creating Two Comfortable Homes

Ensure to keep familiar items in each of the spouse’s house to give your children the same and homely feeling in both places. Out up family photos, clothing, favorite food, school supplies, games, and toys to give you children a secure and homely experience (Psychology Today, 2019).

How 2houses Will Benefit Separated Parents to Give a Well-Nourished Life to Your Children?

2houses is a useful tool for the parents that have been separated but look for an organizer to manage their schedule to effectively communicate and visit their children for their well-being and nourishing upbringing. It helps you keep track of and manage all activities, medical and after school information, manage their expenses and organize custody schedule (2houses, 2019). Considering the maximum reachability of such useful resources, the tools are available as a mobile and web application, both. The application is being used by more than 170,598 separated families and is spread among 170 countries with the aim to provide children with the most complete and happy childhood whilst giving utmost ease to parents to give the children all the colors of their lives (Seif & McNamee, 2019).
The tools are a wholesome package of an interacting calendar with sharing and synchronization facility, an effectual financial management system, a journal to share memories among family members, bank information to keep track of child’s necessities and massages to interact (Gillespie, 2019).
The love, affection and time of parents is the basic necessity of children, which often gets unattained in the process of divorce, letting trust issues, complexes and emotional instability affecting abruptly a child’s life. It is therefore, necessary to take steps by the parents to rectify such a major pitfall in their children life by taking the above mention measures to lead a happy, healthy and a normal life ahead as a family.

References

 

2houses (2019). Divorced parents web & mobile app. [online] 2houses.com. Available at: https://www.2houses.com/en/ [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

Afifi, T. (2019). The best possible thing you can do to help your child through divorce. [online] ideas.ted.com. Available at: https://ideas.ted.com/the-best-possible-thing-you-can-do-to-help-your-child-through-your-divorce/ [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

Amato, P.R., 2014. The consequences of divorce for adults and children: An update. Društvena istraživanja: časopis za opća društvena pitanja23(1), pp.5-24.

Anderson, J., 2014. The impact of family structure on the health of children: Effects of divorce. The Linacre Quarterly81(4), pp.378-387.

Caringforkids, C. (2019). Helping children cope with separation and divorce – Caring for Kids. [online] Caringforkids.cps.ca. Available at: https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/separation_and_divorce [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

Clark, B., Canadian Paediatric Society and Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee, 2013. Supporting the mental health of children and youth of separating parents. Paediatrics & child health18(7), pp.373-377.

Divorce, A. (2019). Activities for Helping Children Deal with Divorce. [online] Extension2.missouri.edu. Available at: https://extension2.missouri.edu/gh6602 [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

Fagan, P.F. and Churchill, A., 2012. The effects of divorce on children. Marri Research, pp.1-48.

Gillespie, C. (2019). This Tool Helps Divorced Parents Avoid Disaster. [online] SheKnows. Available at: https://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/2004742/best-co-parenting-apps/ [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

Gillespie, C. (2019). This Tool Helps Divorced Parents Avoid Disaster. [online] SheKnows. Available at: https://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/2004742/best-co-parenting-apps/ [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

Help, M. and Counseling, D. (2019). Challenges that Children of Divorce Face in their Adulthood | Marriage.com. [online] Best Marriage Advice – Get Marriage Tips from Experts. Available at: https://www.marriage.com/advice/divorce/challenges-that-children-of-divorce-face-in-their-adulthood/ [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

HelpGuide (2019). Children and Divorce. [online] HelpGuide.org. Available at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/parenting-family/children-and-divorce.htm [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

HelpGuide (2019). Co-Parenting Tips for Divorced Parents. [online] HelpGuide.org. Available at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/parenting-family/co-parenting-tips-for-divorced-parents.htm [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

In (2019). Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. [online] In.gov. Available at: https://www.in.gov/judiciary/rules/parenting/index.html [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

Indiana Legal Services (2019). Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. [online] Indiana Legal Services, Inc. Available at: https://www.indianalegalservices.org/node/35/indiana-parenting-time-guidelines [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

Jannese, S. (2019). 9 Rules for Divorced Parents (from a Kid Who’s Been Stuck in the Middle). [online] Babble. Available at: https://www.babble.com/relationships/9-rules-for-divorced-parents-from-a-kid-whos-been-stuck-in-the-middle/ [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

Jeynes, W., 2012. Divorce, family structure, and the academic success of children. Routledge.

Kalmijn, M., 2012. Long-term effects of divorce on parent–child relationships: Within-family comparisons of fathers and mothers. European sociological review29(5), pp.888-898.

Kennedy, S. and Ruggles, S., 2014. Breaking up is hard to count: The rise of divorce in the United States, 1980–2010. Demography51(2), pp.587-598.

Larson, K. and Halfon, N., 2013. Parental divorce and adult longevity. International Journal of Public Health58(1), pp.89-97.

McMahon, L., 2012. The handbook of play therapy and therapeutic play. Routledge.

Nationwidechildrens (2019). Divorce and Children: Guidelines for Parents. [online] Nationwidechildrens.org. Available at: https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/family-resources-education/health-wellness-and-safety-resources/helping-hands/divorce-and-children [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

Parents (2019). https://www.parents.com. [online] Parents. Available at: https://www.parents.com/parenting/divorce/coping/11-rules-for-helping-your-child-deal-with-divorce/ [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

Psychology Today (2019). 8 Strategies for Helping Kids Adjust to a Divorce. [online] Psychology Today. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/how-raise-happy-cooperative-child/201302/8-strategies-helping-kids-adjust-divorce [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

Raising Children Network (2019). Co-parenting: getting the balance right. [online] Raising Children Network. Available at: https://raisingchildren.net.au/grown-ups/family-diversity/co-parenting/co-parenting [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

RC PSYCH (2019). Divorce or separation of parents – the impact on children and adolescents: for parents and carers. [online] RC PSYCH ROYAL COLLEGE OF PSYCHIATRISTS. Available at: https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/parents-and-young-people/information-for-parents-and-carers/divorce-or-separation-of-parents—the-impact-on-children-and-adolescents-for-parents-and-carers [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

Seif & McNamee (2019). A Family Law Attorneys Review On Co Parenting Apps. [online] Seif & McNamee. Available at: https://law-oh.com/2017/03/29/getting-the-most-out-of-co-parenting-technology/ [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

Seif & McNamee (2019). A Family Law Attorneys Review On Co Parenting Apps. [online] Seif & McNamee. Available at: https://law-oh.com/2017/03/29/getting-the-most-out-of-co-parenting-technology/ [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

The Irish Times (2019). How to protect your children from the worst effects of divorce. [online] The Irish Times. Available at: https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/how-to-protect-your-children-from-the-worst-effects-of-divorce-1.2076985 [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

Valenzuela, S., Halpern, D. and Katz, J.E., 2014. Social network sites, marriage well-being and divorce: Survey and state-level evidence from the United States. Computers in Human Behavior36, pp.94-101.

Verywell Family (2019). The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children. [online] Verywell Family. Available at: https://www.verywellfamily.com/psychological-effects-of-divorce-on-kids-4140170 [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

Weaver, J.M. and Schofield, T.J., 2015. Mediation and moderation of divorce effects on children’s behavior problems. Journal of Family Psychology29(1), p.39.

 

Co-parenting: How to Manage the First Christmas Without Dad or Mum

First Christmas Without Dad or Mum - 2houses

With divorce rates rising, many kids now experience Christmas without Dad or Mum. Many parents worry that Christmas with only one parent present will not be the same for their kids. If you are doing Christmas as a solo parent for the first time, here are some tips that can help.

How to Communicate With Kids About Christmas Without Dad or Mum

Many parents struggle with how to tell their child that they will be spending Christmas without Dad or Mum. However, it is very important to be upfront with children about Christmas plans. If you wait until Christmas is almost here to tell your child, they might be very disappointed. Let your kids know early about your co-parenting plans for Christmas.

Involve Dad or Mum If Possible

It might not be possible, or in fact desirable, for your kids to visit their Dad or Mum on Christmas Day. However, you can still include the absent parent. Arrange a Skype call so the kids can show off their new toys and wish Dad or Mum a merry Christmas. This is a great way to show kids that both their parents are thinking of them on this special day.

Make New Family Traditions

Sticking to the same Christmas routine you’ve always had might feel strange now Dad or Mum is absent. Instead of staring at the empty space around the dinner table, why not start a new family festive tradition? You could go to a restaurant for Christmas dinner or invite over friends or relatives to create a festive atmosphere. You could even take a trip away to make this holiday feel extra special.

Take the Time to Make Kids Feel Valued

If you are a busy single parent, it can be tough to give your kids all the time and attention they need. Sometimes, other priorities such as work have to come first. During the first Christmas without Dad or Mum, try to put other obligations on the back burner. This will allow you to spend time with your kids and reassure them that they are loved and valued. If possible, try to swap shifts at work so you can be with the kids as much as possible during this first co-parenting festive season.

Get Input From Kids

If you are worried about how to help your kids have a good time this Christmas, why not ask them what they want? Would they prefer a quiet Christmas at home with you, or a fun-filled adventure that breaks all the rules about how to celebrate? By giving kids input into the Christmas planning process, you can show them that you’re not only their parent but also their friend.

Get Advice From Others

If you know other separated families, you can ask them for advice about how to handle the first Christmas without Dad or Mum. Divorced parents can be a fantastic source of wisdom as they have been through the same challenges you face. Ask them for advice on creating new Christmas traditions and making the day as magical as possible for little ones.

Communicate With Your Co-Parent

Long before Christmas rolls around, make sure you and your co-parent are on the same page. If the kids are moving from one home to another over the festive period, you should both know exactly when pick-up or drop-off will take place. Using a co-parenting app such as 2houses can help to clarify plans to ensure Christmas is conflict-free.

How to Create Parenting Time Guidelines for the Summer

Summer Parenting Time Guidelines

One of the hardest parts about going through a divorce? Figuring out how to work through it in a healthy way that strengthens and builds your children, rather than the other way around.

The most vulnerable and unwilling participants in this journey, they’re the ones who feel the brunt of the impact when spouses can’t get along. However, there is a way to help mitigate conflict and establish order and routine.

Assuming you have shared custody, it all centers on setting firm parenting time guidelines.

In short, this is a pre-determined schedule that dictates the time that each parent has with the shared children. While you might have a schedule built upon their school calendar that works for most of the year, what happens when they get out for the summertime? This change in routine doesn’t have to throw your balancing act off-kilter.

Today, we’re sharing a few strategies you can use to establish parenting time guidelines that allow your children to soak up plenty of sunshine and family time this season.

Ready to learn more? Let’s jump in.

Determine the Summer Break Timeframe

Before you can get into the nitty-gritty of the summer visitation schedule, you and your ex will have to determine exactly when the summer schedule will begin and end.

Most parents choose to base this timeline off their children’s official school schedule. If you have this available, it’s wise to reference and use it, as this will pose as little disruption to their normal routine as possible.

If you go this route, you have two options:

  • Choose exact start and end dates for each summer
  • Choose general dates that extend to every summer

A schedule built around the first bullet might look like:

  • Summer break begins at 4:00 p.m. on May 29, 2020 (last day of school) and ends at 8:00 a.m. on September 7, 2020 (first day of school).

On the other hand, a schedule built around the second bullet might look like:

  • Summer break begins on the last Friday in May and ends on the first Monday in September.

Do you notice the difference? The first is more rigid while the other allows for some flexibility with dates. For instance, the first Monday in September 2020 is September 7, but the following year, it falls on September 6.

Whichever option you choose, be careful to avoid terms such as “the middle of the summer.” While you could do the calculations and determine the exact mid-point, that verbiage is vague and ambiguous. In fact, most people casually select July 4 as the mid-point of the summer although that isn’t always accurate.

When you’re a parent splitting your time with your children, you want the schedule to be as even and fair as possible. Rather than relying on paper-based calendars, try using online scheduling tools to create and share the schedule virtually.

That said, what are some ways you can creatively and effectively split your time during the summer? The good news is that without having to plan around school, you have more options than you would at any other time of the year.

Let’s take a look at a few approaches to try.

Swap Your Normal Schedule

Does your child currently live with mom during the week, with visits to dad’s house occurring every other weekend?

If so, consider swapping this schedule. That way, dad would have the child during the week and mom would have custody every other weekend. This is a simple way to give the other spouse a break and inject a little fun into a standard routine. In addition, by keeping the visits set at every other weekend, parents can plan weeklong vacations that spill into the next weekend without having to make a change to the schedule!

Create a Totally New Schedule

The residential schedule that you maintain throughout the year doesn’t have to be the same one that you keep during the summer! If both parents are flexible and agreeable to a change, why not consider creating an entirely new routine for a few months?

This can be any arrangement that works for everyone. For instance, you might establish a two weeks on/two weeks off schedule wherein one parent gets the children for two weeks at a time. Or, you could try a more intricate schedule, such as a 2-2-3 rotation.

Here, the kids will be with one parent for two days, then with the other parent for two days, and then back to the first parent to enjoy a three-day weekend. If you keep the same pattern going, the other parent will have the kids on the next three-day weekend.

While this setup can work if all parties are on the same page, keep in mind that all of the back-and-forth shuffling can be confusing and overwhelming for everyone involved, especially for small children. Longer spans of time together allow them to feel more settled and secure, so if possible, try to block off individual portions of time that are at least a week or longer.

Grant Full Summertime Custody to One Parent

Of course, another scheduling alternative is to allow one parent to exercise full custody during the pre-determined summer timeline. If this is the same parent that has the children the majority of the time during the rest of the year, it’s important to communicate this schedule early to make sure the extended timeline is a good fit.

Plan Around Family Vacations

Has one parent been busy planning an epic trip to Disneyworld in June while the other can’t wait to take the brood fly fishing in August? Though you’ll need to come up with another scheduling tactic to cover the remainder of the summer, you can begin by talking about those vacation plans.

As long as they don’t overlap or create a conflict, each parent can take the kids on the vacation of his or her choosing.

For instance, you might already have an every-weekend schedule in place for the summer, where the child visits dad every weekend. While that can work for most of May through September, you can block off a two-week section for mom only during July to make those Disneyworld memories. The same holds true for the fly fishing trip in August.

This will require maturity on both ends, as (based on the length of the vacation) it will likely require at least one parent to sacrifice previously scheduled time with the children.

You can also take a different approach while setting up your initial residential schedule that will cover the entire year. Instead of blocking off specific dates during the summer months for vacation, you can give each parent an allotment of days for such excursions.

For example, you might set the following precedences:

  • Dad can take up to 14 days of vacation with the children over the course of one year.
  • Mom can take up to 14 days of vacation with the children over the course of one year.

If you do this, make sure to set guidelines around notifications. For instance, the vacationing parent must inform the other parent at least 30 days in advance of each vacation. In turn, the other parent has up to five days to respond if the proposed getaway will present a conflict in his or her schedule.

Helpful Tips to Successfully Co-Parent This Summer

Specific schedules aside, how can you make sure that the summer timelines you’ve set for your ex will lead to the best outcomes for everyone in your family? Let’s take a look at a few steps you can take before that final school bell rings to get everyone on the same page.

Communicate and Plan Ahead

Communication is the cornerstone of every healthy marriage and every healthy divorce.

The more that you and your ex can talk about the months coming up, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to come to an agreement that works well for you both. Rather than avoiding the topic, go ahead and address it as soon as possible.

That way, you’re able to work around concerns such as vacations and family get-togethers, proactively scheduling your time to accommodate the things that matter to you. That way, there are minimal surprise events that suddenly pop up and change the whole family’s plans.

Talk with your ex and come to an agreement on how you’re going to divide your time with the children. Putting off the conversation or shrugging off its importance could result in a major amount of stress a few weeks down the road. Even if you don’t want to create a super-rigid schedule, you can at least establish a flexible one that has some form of structure.

Keep the Kids a Top Priority

As much as you’d love to be able to plan the summer of your dreams, keep in mind that this is one of the most magical times of the year for your children. Free from the stressors of school, they’re able to play outside, explore with friends and make the kinds of memories that last a lifetime.

That means it’s your duty to make the split schedule work as seamlessly as possible. To do so, include them in the conversation!

Talk to your kids and ask them what they would like to do this summer. Take their needs into account, including both younger children who are totally dependent on you and older ones who are more self-sufficient. Then, to the greatest extent possible, work with your ex to take everyone’s desires and wishes into consideration.

Encourage Memory-Making

If your ex wants to take the kids on an incredible cruise, don’t hold a grudge or try to get in the way of it. Remember who ultimately benefits from this trip: your children!

That said, encourage them to go and wish them well. Encourage your kids to have fun during their time away from you, so they can see that their happiness means more to you than your disagreements with your ex-spouse. Let them know that you want them to have a loving and healthy relationship with both of their parents, and you’re working to make sure that happens.

If they sense even a little tension or sadness on your part, kids can feel guilty and even hesitant to go on the trip. Reassure them that you love them and support them, and you can’t wait to hear all about the trip when they get back.

At the same time, be equally respectful when you’re the one booking the vacation.

Make sure that your spouse is fully up-to-date on all of the details of your itinerary so he or she knows where the kids will be at all times. Think of the details that you would want to know yourself, and make sure to include them! For instance, your ex should always know how to contact your child so don’t leave those details out!

A Note on Childcare

If both parents work full-time, the children will spend the majority of their summer days at daycare, camp or both. Decide ahead of time who is going to coordinate and organize those activities.

If possible, each parent can be responsible for picking the kids up and dropping them off at those locales when he or she has custody of them. If there are attendance costs to pay, decide ahead of time if and how those should be paid.

Establish Successful Parenting Time Guidelines This Summer

The summer is meant to be one of the most laidback and enjoyable times of the year. If you’re a divorced or separated parent, however, it can quickly turn into one of the most stressful ones.

To kick the unknowns to the curb, schedule parenting time guidelines that leave no question as to how your children will split their time off. The earlier you can take this step, the more pleasant the following months will be!

Are you a single parent working to help your children grow accustomed to splitting their time between two homes? We know how difficult that can be, and we’re here to help.

On our site, you’ll find myriad resources designed to help ease this transition, including informative articles, an online scheduling tool, a finance management system, a messaging tool and more. Register for an account today to get started!

As A Co-parent, How To Keep In Touch With Your Child While He’s Not Home

keep in touch while your child is not home - 2houses

Separation is never easy and that’s doubly true when it comes to communicating with your child. If you’re a co-parent, there’s plenty of options for staying in touch with your child when he’s away. Modern technology has made communication easier than ever before!

It’s About More Than Technology

It’s completely natural to want to stay in regular contact with your children while they are away. That said, you’ll want to strike a balance between constant contact and unlimited freedom. Think about from your former spouse’s point of view: would you want your ex calling the kids every few hours when it’s ‘your’ turn?

The last thing you want to do is hover too closely. It’s co-parenting after all: let the kids have their time with their other parents! Allowing the children to stretch their legs with their co-parent is both normal and healthy.

The first step in keeping in touch with your children while they are away is to establish a set of ground rules with your former spouse. For example:

  • Decide whether you’ll opt for scheduled calls
  • Set limits (how much time spent communicating with the away parent is too much)
  • Decide how you’ll handle communication on longer visits

Schedule Regular Phone Calls

It might seem like sacrilege to the younger generations, but phones are for more than just texting. Setting up a regularly scheduled phone call for your children is a great way to remain a consistent fixture in their lives. For example, if you have a 50/50 custody agreement, a phone call every few days is usually more than enough.

Opt For A Video Call

Voice calls work wonders, but seeing someone’s face puts the conversation on an entirely new level. It’s never been easier to set up a video call — consider FaceTime, Skype, and Facebook Messenger — so feel free to embrace this technology. Your children will thank you for it!

Texting Is Consistent

Texting is a way of life and for good reason: it’s convenient! Regular contact via text is simple, flexible, and adequate for most pedestrian conversations. Texting is far less intense than a phone call and is inherently casual. As such, it’s great for keeping in touch on minor details (“How was the movie?”) and doesn’t detract from the co-parents time with the kids.

Of course, it can be tempting to overreach when it comes to texting and expect a constant flurry of messages. Try your best to avoid this — no one likes a helicopter parent — and remember that your ex’s time is just as valuable as yours. The more freedom and leeway you afford the children, the better the relationship.

Bring Your Former Partner Into The Mix

Imagine setting up a board game for a night in only to find your kids having a video chat with your former partner. Surprises like that are unwelcome on both sides of the co-parenting coin!

Take the time to introduce your co-parent to the ways in which technology can be used to keep in touch. Establishing firm boundaries is a great way to ensure that technology helps (and doesn’t detract) your parenting relationship. For example, try avoiding phone calls during overnight visits where you might induce a sense of homesickness. Likewise, avoid asking too much about your former partner during conversations: focus on the children, not your ex.

Keeping In Touch Shouldn’t Be A Chore

When it comes to staying in touch with your children while they are away from home, keep it casual. Talk to your former partner and establish a set of ground rules and go from there. Between phone calls, video chats, and texting, there’s plenty of ways to keep in touch.

Make sure to respect your co-parent’s parenting time and your children will love you all the more for it!

Encouraging Your Child to Go Back to School

back to school is never easy for a child - 2houses
Unless you’ve recently found a functioning magic wand, getting your kids genuinely excited to go back to school might not be a realistic goal. It’s the rare kid who prefers math homework to sleeping in and playing outdoors, and everything’s a little more complicated for families of divorce. That doesn’t mean that this period has to be miserable for everyone. You and your kids can get through the back-to-school season in one piece, with a little preparation.

Get Parents on the Same Page

The start of the school year is a chaotic time for all families. Divorced and separated parents have extra challenges. Something as minor as communicating about a new school policy can be tough when you’re apart. If the kids sense that their parents aren’t on the same team about school stuff, it could add to their dread about going back to the classroom.
Both parents should read all communication from the school and raise any questions or concerns. Next, create a shared calendar that includes details like what time the kids wake up, eat and go to bed. This is especially useful if you have a strained relationship and prefer to communicate virtually. Discuss rules relating to screen time, homework time, food and socializing so you can (hopefully) create some basic ground rules around these things.
Does one parent lives too far away to be part of the kids’ day-to-day life? Coordinate with the school so that you both get all communication from teachers and staff. Still create that shared calendar, too. The remote parent should always know what’s going on with school. That way, he or she can back up your decisions and have meaningful conversations with the kids.

Adjust the Routines

Unless your family stays on a school schedule all year, back-to-school season calls for making some adjustments. Kids who have been waking up at 8 a.m. won’t be at their best if they’re suddenly required to get up at 6 a.m.
Prepare them for a smooth back-to-school transition by making minor adjustments to their schedules. Gradually shift bedtimes and wake-up times. Ask them to do 30 minutes of reading per day. Require them to pick out their clothes at night. If little kids are eating lunch at home right now, start serving it in lunch boxes to get them used to eating that way.
Again, getting your co-parent on board is one of the most important factors in determining how smoothly this goes. You could spend all week inching up bedtimes for your school-bound kids. All that effort won’t matter if your ex lets them stay up until midnight the next week.

Give Them Something to Look Forward To

Some kids struggle more with school than others, so it’s disingenuous to promise them that they’re going to love going back to school. But what you can do is give them some positive association with the idea of going to school again.
You might devise a reward system tied to performance, which allows them to earn things they really want by making a good effort in school. In the week leading up to the first day, wrap a series of small toys or gifts and give kids one each day. Get slightly more exciting first-day-of-school gifts and organize an after-school party on the first day. Plan a fun activity for the first weekend of school, too. Even just a pajamas-and-movies party at home could be a special treat.
If all else fails, help your glum kids get some perspective. Tell them that they have to get through school on their way to the rest of their lives. Talk about what they want to do when they’re adults, and why going to school is a necessary step on that ladder. Remembering that school is just temporary should comfort a kid who’s dreading going back.

Cooking With Kids: 3 Simple Recipes to Try

cooking with kids - 2houses
Getting kids involved with food preparation has tons of benefits. Cooking with kids helps them practice math, learn to love healthy foods and develop self-care skills that they’ll need someday. Plus, it gives you all a chance to spend quality time together.
Choosing recipes that will work for you and your kids depends on their ages, your kitchen setup and your family’s dietary restrictions. These simple recipe ideas are a good starting point.

Sweet Smoothies

Technically, of course, there’s no cooking involved with making smoothies. That’s what makes this is a perfect first project for little ones or kids who are new to the kitchen. Each child can choose and prep the ingredients for his or her smoothie. Offer a few base ingredients, like plain Greek yogurt or juice, plus a bunch of add-ins. Bananas, berries, peaches, mango, nut butters, kale, spinach, mint, tofu, avocado, milk, cinnamon and cocoa powder are all potential options.
Have kids do things like wash and cut fruit, measure ingredients and add them to the blender. Start with equal parts of your base ingredient and add-ins, add a handful of ice and make adjustments from there. An adult may need to operate the blender itself. Let kids taste the smoothie after each addition of a new ingredient. They’ll learn a lot about flavors and balance.

Crowd-Pleasing Pizzas

Making pizza dough from scratch takes hours from start to finish. If the family schedule allows, do it anyway. Homemade dough is simple to assemble and most yeast packages have a specific recipe. Kids can measure dry ingredients, mix yeast with water, then stir and knead the dough.
Of course, cooking with kids takes enough time as it is. If you want, opt for a store-bought crust, or use naan or packaged bread dough. Kids can make their own tomato sauce using canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, a little tomato paste and seasonings including oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer the sauce for at least 20 minutes or until the onions are soft.
Finally, let kids prepare their own pizzas. They can roll the dough, spread the sauce, sprinkle on shredded cheese and pick their own vegetable toppings. In most ovens, cooking a pizza until the cheese is browned only takes about 15 minutes.

Easy Grilled Skewers

Cooking with kids shouldn’t take hours or they’ll get restless. Having them make their own kebabs or skewers is a quick way to get kids fed. They can play with their food, and each kid can customize a meal that he or she will actually eat.
Cut chicken or another meat into ice-cube-size chunks. Cut hearty vegetables like peppers, onions, zucchini and sweet potato into chunks of the same size. Whole cherry tomatoes work too. Let kids season the ingredients. Just salt and pepper might be enough for one kid’s tastes; another might prefer to rub meat with a spicy marinade or a sticky soy sauce glaze.
Next, let kids push the pieces onto simple wooden or metal skewers. You or another adult should handle the actual grilling, unless you’re cooking with an older teen. Simply cook the skewers on the grill or grill pan, turning each skewer every few minutes to cook all sides. Once the meat is cooked to the safe level of doneness, they’re ready to eat.
Kids can complete a meal of grilled skewers by mixing up simple dipping sauces. Try homemade ranch made with Greek yogurt, a sweet-and-sour honey lime dip or a smooth cheese sauce with melted cheddar.
Alternately, use this prep idea to entice kids to eat more fruit. Have them push chunks of pineapple, peach and banana chunks onto their skewers. Grill them until they’re lightly browned and have kids make a dipping sauce of yogurt, orange juice and a pinch of brown sugar.