By Lauri Jean Crowe
You’ve made it through the divorce. You don’t want to see another courtoom, judge or lawyer for the rest of your life. Most likely you don’t want to see your ex either. But, if you have children together the chances are you will see your ex-husband or wife at least twice every other week for pick up and drop of off those children. So, how do you behave?
If you’re like approximately 50% of other divorcees out there, you may slip back into bed with your ex on some occasion. Hopefully you eventually get over with this bump in the road and move on with your life. Baby steps. So, what kind of guidelines should you follow when you have to meet one another for your children’s sake?
First off, set guidelines. If you have an amenable relationship with your prior spouse, you can iron these out together. Otherwise, set guidelines for your own behavior and don’t break them even if he or she eggs you on. The foremost thing is to always remember why you are there – to exchange the children and give updates on their needs. The next thing to remember is that those little sweethearts have eyes and ears and you are the most intriguing fish in the bowl.
Let your actions and your words be civil and to the point. Do not yell at your ex, or show anger. Don’t give in to the desire to pick fights or argue. Present a cool but companiable façade for your kids so they know they are loved, and that you are caring for their best interest. The situation is not about mom and dad, but about them. Your children will remember this and even if you feel like you’re holding your tongue too much, they will appreciate and come to respect you in the years to come.
Have the children ready when your ex comes to get them. Do not invite your ex into the home, but rather walk the children to the door with their things and help them into the car if appropriate. Kiss or hug them goodbye. Tell them you love them, and assure them that you will be there when they come back home. This is especially important if you have small children who can feel a sense of abandonment. Don’t forget that they went through the divorce too, and have all sorts of conflicting emotions.
Be there on time when it is time to exchange the children. Your promptness will go a long way to keeping the visitation times civil. If your ex does not show up on time, wait patiently. Don’t accuse or belittle when they do arrive. Rather keep that same coolness, and state that you really need him or her to be prompt. This goes for pickup times too. Don’t use the opportunity to make your ex look bad in front of your kids. Children are smart and they will figure it out for themselves. Besides, if you really feel the need to bitch you can call your ex later and let them know how you really feel. But, I’d advise against it – that way you are letting your ex control the situation.
Obviously, life has extremes and these easy to say but hard to enact guidelines won’t fit every situation. However, having done a bit of trial and error over the last year since my own divorce I’ve found that civil, and at a distance are two of the best ways to handle my ex. It keeps things level, there is no room for misunderstanding and the situation is businesslike rather than a feudal war.
You’ve made it through the divorce. Now, its’ your time to grieve and move on, but it is also your time to shine as a parent and help your children make it through the divorce too. Life requires sacrifices, but our children shouldn’t be the ones in the line of fire. Do what you so often tell them to do. Behave.
Lauri Jean Crowe is a freelance writer known for such diverse topics as dreams, sexuality, gardening, health and parenting. She is a freelance writer, artist and designer living in Michigan, USA.