Parenting after divorce—it isn’t easy. Parenting teens and tweens is challenging enough without the added stress of co-parenting with your ex after an acrimonious split. Your Teen caught up with Jeff Meshel, a divorced father of two from New York City, and co-founder of DivorceForce, an online community and resource for divorced parents, to talk about tips for parenting after divorce.
5 Tips for Divorced Parents:
1. Get support.
“Divorce is the second most stressful life event there is,” says Meshel. “And when you are going through it, you are confused, reactive, hurt, and your judgment isn’t always great. Your friends want to help you, but they probably aren’t divorce experts and are more likely to give you their opinions than concrete legal advice.” Connecting with others who are either going through a divorce, or have experienced a divorce, says Meshel, helps divorced parents receive the support and advice they need.
2. Do your best to stay out of court.
Matrimonial and family court foster hostility and conflict. If you are having issues communicating with your ex, ask parents or a trusted source to mediate and help you both overcome the hostility so you can move towards an amicable resolution. Litigation is expensive and stressful on your children. “Both parties must be willing to stay out of court, so if your ex isn’t cooperating, find someone close to him or her who can point out all the negatives of litigation.”
3. Don’t disparage your ex—ever!
As much as you may dislike your ex, remember that person is the mother or father of your kid(s). “If you have two intelligent people who are committed to putting their kids first, it’s much easier than if you have a hostile divorce with lots of adversity where the kids are very emotionally affected,” says Meshel. Even when your ex is trying to alienate your kids, or physically or emotionally separate you from them, Meshel recommends learning to “deflect it and not react emotionally in front of the children.” Stay positive and affirming. Don’t lie to your kids or try to shield them too much, but be open and honest, even when it’s painful. “I’ve been an open book about the good and the bad with my 19-year-old,” says Meshel, “and it has really helped to empower him to make good decisions.”
4. You are never fully divorced.
You share the most valuable possession in the world. And you’re responsible to raise your kids to the best of your abilities. This will keep you connected forever. “As hard as it may be, and as emotional as you are right now, keep in mind that your ex is a crucial part of your child’s lives, and being able to co-parent is paramount to your child’s happiness.”
5. Don’t use your kids as messengers.
Avoid unnecessary stress on your kids by using them to talk to your ex. The most common abuse of this is discussing parenting schedules. “Kids don’t need to relay this information, not when you have a host of calendar and scheduling options. We all have phones. Sync up with your ex and alleviate the back and forth over simple items.” Less conversations with your ex could lead to a smoother relationship moving forward.