The dreaded ‘D’ word can get ugly quickly, and if not managed properly, the kids can get caught in the middle, with very little to zero chance of continuing healthy relationships with both parents – which is no doubt the last thing you want to happen.
Many of us who have ended a marriage know exactly how challenging it can be when kids are involved – and, more often than not, there will be children in the mix: according to a report by Statistics South Africa, more than half of divorced couples have children under 18.
Read more: How to be a good stepmom
How to co-parent successfully
Studies show that children cope better with divorce when they spend equal time with each parent; in other words, when the parents have shared custody. But how does this happen when the divorce is less than amicable? ‘This is where a “parenting plan” comes into play,’ says Stacey Lewis, who’s a mother of four, author of Divorce 101: Survive & Thrive (Batya Bricker Book Projects), and the founder of thedivorcesource.co.za.
According to Joburg-based attorney and mediator Nicki Macartney, a parenting plan is essentially a roadmap that will direct how your children will be raised after separation or divorce. For it to work, it needs to be drilled down to the very last detail, so that it pretty much makes any potential conflict between you and your ex non-existent.
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She advises that when creating your detailed parenting plan, you need to first take into consideration things like your kids’ ages, each of their personalities, the family schedule (of both you and your ex), their schooling, and what will need to happen in an emergency. This plan should be in writing, and planned together with your ex.
Read more: Parenting: expectation vs reality
Stacey’s co-parenting pointers on ‘How to draw up a Parenting Plan’:
- ‘The devil is in the detail. The more detailed the plan is, the less room for any conflict. Make sure that both you and your ex-spouse are in agreement before putting it in writing, though. This may mean visiting a lawyer or mediator in some cases.’
- ‘Remember to discuss what happens on important days, like birthdays, religious holidays, school breaks, or public holidays, as a lack of agreement can lead to big disputes. Make sure that both you and your ex are 100% clear on what the expectation is.’
- ‘Put all emotions aside and make sure that you are planning according to what is in your children’s best interests first – not yours. And this means that your child should have input too (if they’re old enough).’
- ‘Don’t be afraid to consult an expert like a psychologist or social worker if you’re unsure. Professional advice can be key to a smooth resolution.’
Try Co-parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households After Divorce by Deesha Philyah and Michael D Thomas (New Harbinger).
Or Living with Mom and Living with Dad by Melanie Walsh (Candlewick Press).