A Massachusetts divorce can be a long process, with a lot of complicated feelings, but there's still a chance to avoid the worst acrimony of the situation, particularly when it comes to raising a child between two separate households. Introducing a child to the new reality of a two-home lifestyle is tricky. And doing so gracefully requires a strong foundation of cooperation between parents who've moved their separate ways.
Co-parenting is hard, especially if you have a contentious relationship with your ex-partner, but when you choose to co-parent amicably with your ex, you give your children the stability, security, and close relationships with both parents that they need.
How to Introduce Kids to Their New Second Home
- Co-parent with intent. The marriage may be over, but parental responsibilities aren't. Think of what the child needs, and work together to achieve it.
- Establish a residential calendar. Let the kids see whose home they are going to be and when. Let them help decorate it or write it into the schedule. It helps them feel in control.
- Agree on the rules, and honor them. Kids need consistency; if both households have similar expectations, it makes it easier. Privileges revoked in one home should extend to the other.
- Always drop off - don't come to 'take away.' Co-parents can help the child pack, remind them when they are leaving for the other parent's home, and can encourage and foster a good relationship between parent and child.
That doesn't mean wounded feelings aren't valid, or should be ignored. But it does mean that the best effort should be made to not only be fair to an ex but to also communicate and provide a healthy relationship model for a child. Major decisions need to be made by both parents, and that needs to be clear to both parents at the beginning. One parent may be designated to communicate primarily with healthcare professionals, but both need to keep one another in the loop.
Consider establishing a residential calendar, where a child can look to see when they are at either home. It provides predictability and security, which can lower a child's anxiety. If both parents cooperate to create the calendar (and have a copy in their home), the kids won't feel like they are choosing one parent over the other.
Parents also have to agree on the same basic set of expectations - kids need to know that the rules are pretty much the same in each house. This includes bedtime, homework, curfews, and TV. Restriction of TV or internet privileges need to be enforced even if the infraction occurred at the child's other home - kids need to know consequences don't disappear with a change of location. It might be tempting to try to be the cool parent, but in the long run, that's not going to help anyone.