Parenting Children in Separate Households

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There are a lot of adjustments for families with children to make after a separation or divorce. If you and your ex-spouse or partner have joint physical custody of your children, the kids will be moving between the two households, and it is in your children’s best interest for both parents to work together to make their transition from one to two homes as seamless as possible.

In many families, one of the parents played a primary role in caring for the children. The parent who spent less time in that function may need information from their ex-spouse or partner in order to ease the children into the split household routine. This may include information such as phone numbers and addresses or health insurance information for their doctor and dentist, medications taken, team schedules or notes on other activities the children are involved in. It may also be about little things, like who likes mustard and who likes mayo on their sandwiches.

This type of information can be shared through email if verbal communication is a source of conflict for you right now. There are also online sites that offer shared calendars where each of you can update events for the children, keeping the scheduling simple. Apps that provide the ability for ex-spouses or partners to communicate in other formats, as well as handle payments of reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses or support are available as well.

For the parent taking on a larger parenting role than they played prior to the separation or divorce, expect a learning curve. You may have to make decisions that used to be made by your spouse about the children’s diets, bedtime hours, TV and video game activities, overnights at friends, parties, disciplinary issues, etc. You and your spouse may find that you have different parenting styles, or that one of your styles has changed. Be as supportive as possible of the rules established in each household, even if they differ. Supporting your spouse in their efforts to parent your children is important in maintaining stability in the children’s lives.

Recognize that this is a period of high anxiety for your children, especially for young children, who may not understand what is going on right now. Getting them settled into a consistent routine of sharing time with each of their parents, and feeling supported by each parent as they spend time with the other, will go a long way towards helping them get grounded. Even if you find yourself resenting your ex because you feel they are responsible for this upheaval in your life and the lives of your children, remember that one of the best ways to help the children adjust is to move forward in a positive way.

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