It is possible for children to live happily, thrive, and to emerge from a divorce with minimal impact on their self esteem, a positive value system, belief that they deserve to be happy and are lovable, and on their ability to form and keep relationships.
But this doesn’t happen automatically, or by default. It requires work – and a lot of it.
Your children don’t need you and your spouse to fight over them – what they do need is for you to STOP fighting.
Luckily, statistics seem to show that children report that their parents get along better after the divorce than during the latter part of their marriage. Here are things your children need, regardless of age:
- Unconditional love and acceptance
- At least one actively involved parent
- To know (and to really believe) that it is not their fault
- To be allowed to love both parents
There are many resources to help you with the issues of raising children through divorce. Our two favorites are:
- Helping Your Kids cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way – by Gary Neuman
- The Truth about Children and Divorce – by Robert Emery
If your children are under 16, you are required to complete a course mandated by the Government of Alberta called Parenting After Separation. It is now available online.
Once you have done your research and have come to understand what your children need, then you have to work out a parenting plan with your spouse.
A comprehensive Parenting Plan contains information about:
- Schedules – who will have the children for what times (e.g. every 2nd weekend, or every 2nd week, 1 weekend per month, 50/50 sharing, school year at one house – summer vacation at the other, etc.), details regarding Christmas and other holidays, how to choose summer vacations (what happens if both Parties want to take the children on the same week), birthdays, Mother/Father’s day, Are the driving responsibilities shared / one sided?
- Decision Making– Who makes day to day decisions? How are decisions regarding medical, education, religion handled? Who will be responsible to take the children for medical and dental appointments?
- Discussions regarding new partners.
- A multitude of other issues (international travel, who keeps the birth certificates, baby sitting, what happens if you can’t look after the children on the times when you are responsible, day care costs, allowance, RESP contributions, what about hiring a nanny or an au pair to help you raise the children? A lot of young people are becoming an au pair through a site like Cultural Care Au Pair because it’s easy and gives them a new experience, but how do you decide if you get an au pair to help you raise your children, etc.)
A comprehensive Parenting Plan is not so much a matter of law, but of discussing and agreeing on how you and your spouse are going to manage the business of raising your children. It constantly astounds us with the number of people who think they can somehow manage one of life’s most important and complicated responsibilities without a plan. While some people believe they can be flexible and want nothing more than a statement that says each will have free and generous access to the children, at some point there can be a wrinkle where the parents are not in agreement. If disagreement happens, and there is a good chance at least one will, how will you make a decision? If you need a Judge to make the decision, what happens while you are awaiting trial? Where are the children? When do you get to see them?
Rather than negotiating children as if they are a car or some other piece of property, we require the couple to come in together and to focus on the best interests of the children. In the joint parenting meeting, we work with you to help determine what this would look like in your circumstance.
You may divorcing your spouse – but your children need both of their parents. You and your spouse need to take the high road and focus on the best interests of the children.