This is the time of year people are making resolutions for the New Year. If you're divorced or separated, one of the best resolutions you can make for yourself and your children is to commit to being a better co-parent.
Think about it: Your children deserve to have a loving, respectful relationship with both of their parents. It's important for you to support that relationship, regardless of how you feel about your former spouse.
So why not start this year off by resolving to be a better co-parent? Hopefully, your former spouse will do the same, but if not, you've at least put your best foot forward (and remember that we can't control how another person acts). Your children will benefit and will see from your actions how to deal with their own relationships now and in the future.
Here are five resolutions you can make to improve your co-parenting:
1. I will not argue with my former spouse -- especially not in front of our children.
Make a concerted effort to be civil as often as you can -- in person and on the phone -- whether your children are present or not. Even if they don't see or hear your conversation, they can sense the tension after a stressful conversation or angry exchange of texts. If you can't talk to each other without arguing, consider changing the way you communicate; if you can't talk on the phone, communicate via email or text. Or keep a stress ball handy during conversations and take out your frustrations on that, instead.
2. I will encourage my children to love and respect their other parent.
Make sure your child regularly communicates with his or her other parent, whether texting to say goodnight or calling to share good news (or bad) about grades on the latest report card. Help your child make or purchase a card and/or gift to acknowledge their other parent on birthdays, holidays, and especially Mother's Day/Father's Day and family holidays. Make sure the other parent is invited to school events, piano recitals, and baseball games.
3. I will not put down my former spouse in front of my children.
You may not approve of your former spouse's lifestyle or parenting choices, but unless they are harmful or dangerous for your children, bite your tongue and let it go. Don't criticize how your former spouse spends time with your children, including where they go, what they do, or how they choose to act when they're not with you.
4. I will be more flexible with my former spouse when it comes to changes in our routines.
If your former spouse asks to change the weekly parenting schedule or routine, allow the change -- especially if it's in your child's best interest to do so. Maybe dad is working late all week on a big project or mom has an out-of-town business trip when he or she is supposed to be with the children. That's no reason your child shouldn't get to see his or her other parent. If a temporary change in the parenting plan is reasonable, try to accommodate the other parent's request for the sake of your child. You'll see how it works both ways -- and everybody benefits.
5. I will be grateful that my children have another parent.
Many children aren't lucky enough to have two parents; others may never spend any time with their non-custodial parent. Juggling parenting schedules and plans can be difficult on you, but your child benefits from having a loving relationship and spending time with both parents. Try to see the good in your child's other parent, too. (When your child is with his or her other parent, find ways to enjoy your alone time, too. Take a class. Learn a new skill. Reconnect with old friends, or make new ones!)
There's one final resolution to add to this list: Resolve to cut yourself some slack during the coming year! Being a single parent is tough, so give yourself a pat on the back. And if you develop a good co-parenting relationship with your former spouse, give him or her a pat on the back as well!