Divorce tends to have a significant impact on families, even in amicable situations. It certainly disrupts the sense your child has of a cohesive family unit. After all, their time is most likely divided between two different households, which may complicate their perceptions of unity. As a parent, it’s part of your responsibility to make this experience as smooth as possible for your kids.
While this isn’t always easy, co-parenting tends to be more successful when there is effective communication between everyone involved. Approach the process as a collaboration and make efforts to ensure you each understand exactly what is happening in your child’s life. Share information and find ways to work together on solutions. This approach is particularly important when it comes to your child’s wellness.
Guest post by Katie Brenneman.
Collaborate on Their Health
From the outset, you and your spouse should get together to create a document of your child’s current health needs. It might seem as though both parents should already know about this information. However, there are various reasons you may not each have the same information or perspectives on your child’s health.
This document should include details of any health conditions they live with. Alongside this, you need to list the names, volume, and frequency of any medications they need to take. It’s also important to list the name, location, and contact details of any doctors they visit. If you each live in different states, make sure your child’s regular doctors for both locations are listed.
It’s wise to make certain this document is kept up-to-date. If you can, create it as a file on the cloud that you and your former spouse can both share and edit. Every time there is a change to your child’s medical needs or you discover new allergies and conditions, detail this on the document accordingly.
Consistent Curfews and Boundaries
Curfews and boundaries play a role in keeping your child safe when they’re out of the house with their friends. The time they spend away from you as their parents is an important factor in their personal development and in forging bonds with their peers. However, that’s not to say they don’t face risks when they’re out and about. You and your child’s other parent need to be on the same page about how to manage this.
Work together to establish guidelines for the amount of time they can be away from home unsupervised and the distance they can travel. Agree on the frequency with which your child needs to check in with a phone call to the current custodial parent to inform them of their whereabouts, who they’re with, and their plans. There are even apps that will record phone calls that you can use to stay up to date with your child’s phone conversations. That way, if they call their other parent while they are out, you can still stay informed on their whereabouts.
Consistency is important here. You and your former spouse may have different opinions on the level of freedom your child has. However, if there are significant differences in the curfews and boundaries you set for your child, this can lead to confusion and even conflict with your child. So, aim to compromise with one another here. Make sure you revisit these standards regularly to account for your child’s developing maturity.
Dealing with Firearms
Firearms are a prevalent aspect of life in the U.S. Whatever your feelings on the issue, it may be the case that you or your former spouse are keeping a firearm in the home. Unfortunately, there are significant risks of accidental injury or death in this situation. Indeed, during the pandemic, accidental gunshot deaths by children jumped by 31%.
Whether you or your ex is a gun enthusiast, it’s important to work together to ensure firearms are stored and used safely when there are children in the home. The good news is that there are relatively simple steps to take to enforce effective precautions. This includes making certain firearms are fully unloaded and uncocked when not in use and kept in a locked safe.
It’s also important that both parents keep open communication with their children about firearms safety. Being closed off here tends to only pique their curiosity in ways that could put them in danger. Talk to them honestly about the risks firearms present and have conversations about how responsible gun owners should behave.
A parent that is a gun enthusiast may wish to teach the child about handling weapons at some point, too. This is an important conversation both parents need to discuss. Indeed, both parents must be willing to respect one another’s feelings about the situation and prioritize the child’s safety in any decision-making.
It’s difficult to get through life without being exposed to hazards. These risks can help teach accountability and provide apt lessons for future instances. There may come a time in which your child is keen to engage in hazardous activities. Most often, this involves sports such as surfing, skateboarding, football, and skiing. Participation in these actions should be a joint decision between both parents.
Work together to get a full understanding of the risks involved. This shouldn’t be a process intended to scare you or your child off from potential participation. Rather, it’s a tool to help you all make well-informed decisions. Get to know the likelihood of severe injuries and what measures should be taken to mitigate the worst outcomes.
The difficulty with living in separate homes is when one parent stays firm on their objection to participation. This can be especially frustrating when significant safety measures are in place and the child is enthusiastic about the activity. You want to keep the peace, but you also don’t want to deprive your child of enriching experiences. In most cases, there’s no legal reason one parent can’t allow the child to engage in the activity during their custodial periods. However, it’s still important to make efforts to reassure the other parent of the child’s wellbeing. Keep them abreast of all safety measures being taken and respect their boundaries.
Unfortunately, emergencies are a fact of life. When co-parenting in different houses, it’s important to make certain you each agree on plans for such situations. With plans in place, everyone will be on the same page and have all the resources necessary to respond effectively. It also means the non-custodial parent at the time of an emergency can be confident of the actions the other is taking.
You can usually be more effective here if you take some time to get together and make plans. Go through a range of scenarios. This could include unexpected hospital visits, natural disasters, and emergencies at school or an extracurricular activity. Design a plan for responding to the emergency taking place at both of your homes, at school, or when you’re out and about with your child. Agree on a process for communicating with the other parent at the earliest possible opportunity. Identify what resources you might need for each scenario and ensure you both have them.
It can also be a good idea for each of you to talk through the emergency response process with your child, depending on their age. This helps to ensure they know what to expect wherever they happen to be. It can also reassure them that their parents are working together to keep them safe.
Co-parenting can be challenging at the best of times. However, where your child’s safety is concerned you must act collaboratively and communicate effectively. Make efforts to ensure both parents are fully up to date on your child’s health needs and make emergency response plans together. Establish consistent standards for safety both when your child is out of the house and if there are firearms at home.
Hazardous activities can be a part of life, but as parents, you need to keep one another informed of the measures in place to mitigate potential issues. When you take the time to show respect for one another and communicate clearly, you can be proactive in keeping your child healthy and happy beyond your divorce.