When raising children in separated homes, there are many things to negotiate.
At first when parents separate, typically the first things that need to be dealt with are parenting schedules (when will children be at mom’s house and at dad’s house) and the finances (child support, bill payments, etc.). However, separated parents (referred to as co-parents) shouldn’t overlook the importance of trying to achieve some form of consistency between their households if possible. While I acknowledge that this is not always possible depending on the level of conflict, but in my view it will significantly help your children to more easily adjust to living in 2 homes.
The types of things you will need to discuss will depend largely on your children’s ages. Some topics to consider:
- Bedtimes & curfews – weekdays / weekends if different
- Meal routines
- Expectations regarding chores
- Personal grooming – bath frequency, teeth brushing routine, haircut expectations
- Junk food allowances
- Food balance
- Potty training – if applicable
- School expectations – timeliness, after school routine (expectations on when to be home, communicating with parent), homework expectations, parental involvement with homework, parent communication with school
- Co-parent expectations regarding communication – what do you expect to have communicated to you? Examples – report cards, hot lunch orders, birthday party invitations received for party on the other parent’s time, classroom news, school discipline report, dentist/doctor/other appointments and reports from these providers
- Discipline – type of discipline, prohibited discipline if any, whether it carries-over to co-parent’s home
- General expectations of the children
The list could go on…
You will likely find that your children will learn quickly as to how much or little their parents communicate and what they can get away with at each home. I encourage you to find an effective form of communication which will vary based on such things as your comfort with technology, preferred type of communication, and level of conflict. At the very least I recommend a shared online calendar exclusively for kid-stuff – it’s easy to set up and usually free. This way, you can each add kid things to the calendar as they arise, and a notification will pop-up on the other parent’s device. No need to remember to write anything down, keep track, or remind, and there’s no way for the other parent to say they didn’t know or weren’t told.
A great app for communicating generally, and keeping all of the parenting info in one place is Our Family Wizard. Although it has a cost associated, the app is extremely dynamic with functions such as: messaging (parent-parent and parent-child), journaling, expense reimbursement requesting, parenting time change requests, child support tracking, shared calendar, child info tracking (vaccinations, clothing sizes, contact info for doctor/dentist/etc), and ability to grant your lawyer/mediator access to your account for monitoring purposes. There are loads of free apps on the market, but none I have seen as dynamic and reliable as OFW.
An app is a great way to pass along info to the other parent without having to engage in a dialogue necessarily. Whatever way you choose to communicate, the most important thing is to ensure that children know that their parents do in fact communicate – otherwise they will start using that to their advantage.
Issues like consistency between households and building a communication plan are so vital to the success of co-parents, but sometimes if conflict is high these issues are overlooked because of the difficulty in even negotiating the basics like scheduling and child support. Digging deeper into these issues will benefit your children immensely as they get used to living in 2 homes.