Jenny slammed on the brake to avoid hitting the car in front of her–spilling two Cokes and a bag of fries. “There goes the kids’ supper,” she yelled to the air around her. It was hard enough to transport 3 kids from school to three different soccer fields–much less get dinner. Couldn’t anything go right? Jenny navigated the rest of the trip home through tears.
Fall is tough, for all parents. Adjustment to new schedules, new classes, and new friends challenges kiddos, stresses families, and creates scheduling nightmares. Even healthy families struggle to blend it all.
Divorced parents must do all this from separate houses. And, too often, without the ability to rationally talk to each other.
When one parent can’t pick up a child from practice, the other may assume the first parent is torpedoing the schedule on purpose. Sometimes, they are. Sometimes, it’s just life. When parents don’t communicate effectively or trust what is said, ordinary frustration explodes into full-blown feuds. But, it doesn’t have to.
Below are tips to help ease the fall transition for struggling families.
Tip 1: Get on the same page
First parents need to know what to expect from each other. For proven tips on setting expectations between parents, see Back to School–from Two Houses.
Once expectations are set, parents should be able to work together to meet those expectations. The key to communicating during stress: be stupidly concrete.
When parents discuss any arrangement, they should:
- Be specific in the details: dates, start and end times, who transports, and how to behave,
- Repeat back to each other what each heard,
- Put the agreement on paper.
Jenny knew she couldn’t keep up with the kids’ schedule. But, every time she asked Ron for help–he either showed up late or forgot altogether. Yet, something had to give.
Jenny emailed Ron to ask if he could pick up some of the transportation to soccer. Once he agreed, she put the schedule on a calendar and they each put their name beside the child’s name and time they could transport. With the times and days in writing, Ron knew exactly what was expected. Both parents got a little more sleep. Even better, they both got a little more one-on-one time with their kids.
As parents follow these steps, they develop a pattern of communication that creates clear understanding and a foundation for working together.
Tip 2: Check out On-line Scheduling Tools
If face-to-face communication proves too hard, many online sites offer parents the ability to share necessary information without talking directly to each other. Two options, Our Family Wizard (https://www.ourfamilywizard.com/) and 2 Houses (https://www.2houses.com/en).
These sites offer:
- Calendars for recording schedules, organizing transportation, and communicating about special events,
- Message centers for sharing information,
- Places to store records such as doctor instructions and permission slips
- Financial areas for budgeting, recording payments, and suggesting needed expenditures.
Clients who use these tools avoid misunderstanding and communicate more effectively.
Tip 3: Normalize Fall’s Challenge and Keep the End-Goal in Mind
When parents begin to feel the other isn’t cooperating, it helps to remember that all families struggle to manage calendars and to coordinate schedules–especially in the transitions of fall.
Add separate houses, limited communication, and children troubled by their family dynamics – no wonder there is difficulty, without anyone intending frustration or harm. Remembering that this as a normal struggle for all families eases the tension.
Further, parents find peace as they focus on the big goal: supporting their children.
Children tend to feel responsible for the divorce. When parents go at each other over the schedules, they rob children of the pleasure of those activities. Rather than cause fights, children would rather quit. More, they take the fights as proof that the divorce really was their fault.
When Holly offered to give up her soccer team, Jenny knew it wasn’t the schoolwork Holly claimed caused her decision. It was the fight she heard. Jenny logged into her 2houses account and shared her insight with Ron. This created another incentive to stick to their plan for practices. Children will freely engage in the activities only when they sense full support from both parents. As parents work together, they provide security to their children. And, they create peace between themselves.
Jenny and Ron learned that, though they don’t look forward to time with each other, their children need both of them. That means supporting each other so they meet all the needs of their children, even in through challenge of fall.
If you are contemplating divorce–or are divorced but need help with parenting, call The Resolution Center at 317-344-9740 or email Info@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com. We look forward to serving you.