Embracing Change in Your Parenting Process

May 20, 2022

On many levels, divorce is a transition. One day you are living with someone you once thought you’d spend the rest of your life with, and the next day that person is living elsewhere.

One or both of you were working to pay the bills and save for the future, but that has changed. Each of you is now financially responsible for your own residence, doing it on your own income, with whatever support you are receiving from your ex. If you are the one paying, your income is now reduced to help your ex.

Perhaps the most difficult transition for some is realizing that your family routine has changed. Specifically, you probably don’t see your children every day, because they are living in two separate households.

Regardless of how you divided responsibility for the care of your children while you were married, divorce requires some big adjustments.

The Mediated Parenting Plan

In mediation I begin with these acknowledgements: You, as parents, have your past parenting experience to help guide you in planning for how you will co-parent your children after divorce. Also, while not able to sustain a marriage, many of you will recognize that you have done a good job at parenting and are raising your children to be responsible and successful adults.

When I am helping parents to create a parenting plan for their future in two households, I begin with these acknowledgments:

1. You, as parents, have your past parenting experience to help guide you in planning for how you will co-parent your children after divorce.
2. While not able to sustain a marriage, many of you will recognize that you have done a good job at parenting and are raising your children to be responsible and successful adults.

There is emotional turmoil in divorce, and even reluctance to accept that your children will most likely not live with you 100 percent of the time. Still, a thoughtful parenting plan, developed in mediation, is an important first step in creating a healthy transition for your entire family.

Envisioning Your Children as Adults

In the early part of mediation, I ask you two simple questions to help keep you focused on your children’s future amidst the changes you are experiencing:

1. Envision your children as young adults who reflect your hopes and dreams for them. How would you describe them?
2. Between now and the time your children are grown, what can you do as parents to help them to become the young adults you envision?

This introduction to a visioning process for children can lay a foundation for constructive co-parenting, where you can determine how decisions are made, how time will be allotted between parents, and the co-parenting guidelines for communicating and setting expectations.

More Things to Consider

Here are a few other issues to be mindful of, as you think about how to manage the changes in your parenting process:

  1. The roles of each of you as parents while you were married may shift as you each become responsible for the care of your children when they are with you. I’ve seen many parents who seemed less involved with their children step up and take more responsibility to ensure that they will remain an important part of their children’s lives.
    2. You can remain united as parents in guiding your children even if you are doing so from separate households. Children have an uncanny ability to appeal to one parent after being refused something from the other parent—this happens in two-parent households as much as in one-parent households. Your children will benefit if you are cooperative and consistent instead of competitive.
    3. Parenting in a single-parent household is hard. If you can each build in some time for yourselves, you will get the break you need to recharge and refocus. Together, you can give your children the benefit of rested and engaged parents.

Unlike the court system, where a judge has to referee and decide for parents how they will move forward, mediation offers the chance for you to set your own rules and expectations for co-parenting. When you do this well—and I assure you that many do—your children will carry with them the memory of parents who navigated a difficult transition with love and concern for their well-being.