As a Family Law Attorney for almost 2 decades, I've helped over 1000 families navigate the legal system. I can say with much certainty that most of the people who end up in Family Court did not see that as their destiny in life when they became involved with the other person romantically.
All too often, parents label the other parent as "my ex." That label itself can set you up for co-parenting failure, in my opinion. Stop viewing the other parent as YOUR ex and view them as your Co-Parent. The relationship label of an intimate nature (my ex) will undoubtedly lead to control issues, jealousy issues and possessiveness issues that result in conflict; whereas if you view that person as someone who is in this world to help you raise the children you have, you are more likely to view & treat that person as a team-mate.
When a woman is pregnant with her baby, she doesn't plan to have complete strangers dictate how and when she will be allowed to raise that child.
But unfortunately that is exactly what happens when you end up in Family Court.
There is a breakdown between parents that ultimately ends in complete strangers dictating your life and the life of your children. What can we do to prevent that from happening in the first place? How can we avoid family court and raise our children the way that we wish to raise them?
That's where I come in. I will work with your family to create a parenting plan that enables YOU to control your own life.
Here are some words of wisdom that may help you.
Embrace your differences: All too often, we truly and genuinely believe that we are "RIGHT" and the other person is "WRONG." It is that mentality that will destroy relationships. Shift your perspective. You're not "right" and the other parent is not "wrong." You simply have different perspectives. Your child can actually THRIVE by being exposed to different perspectives IF the parents are able to come together and support the other parent's perspective instead of criticizing it.
Some of the differences may be:
a. Disciplinary Methods: This is something that should NOT be discussed in the presence of the children and that you really want to try to be on the same page about rather than embracing the differences. Meet with a trained therapist or parenting coach to determine a mutually agreeable method of disciplining your children that is safe and legal. If you both believe in spanking, then perhaps you need a parenting class to learn other methods of discipline that will also work. If one parent doesn't believe in corporal punishment, then neither parent should implement it on the children. Your children NEED YOU TO COME TOGETHER to be on the same page to avoid being dragged through the legal system.
b. Lifestyle Differences: However, if it's something like, "I can't afford to take the kids on lavish vacations and it's not fair that you do because then you're the favorite parent." Assure your co-parent that you embrace the differences in lifestyle that you each are able to offer your children. Respond with, "I'm very thankful that our children will be able to experience life as well-rounded human beings. They will get to travel with me and they will get to go camping, hiking, fishing and other amazing adventures with you that don't cost money. I don't like bugs and you love those kind of things. I want our children to be able to experience both worlds, don't you?" Rather than go on the defensive, FIND the GOOD in both positions. Your children will love having exposure to a variety of lifestyles growing up and it will educate them in ways that books cannot.
c. No Beds At the Other Parents' Home: This is a common complaint in family law in California, primarily because of the cost of living in Southern California. It's an unfortunate fact that most parents cannot afford to pay for their own household, much less pay child & spousal support in addition to attempting to fund their own household. The cost of living here sets families up for failure, quite frankly. But what is the emotional cost of your child not having time with each parent? As a child, I remember attending MANY slumber parties where we slept in sleeping bags on the floor. We didn't care. We just wanted to be with our friends. When we spent the night at friends' houses, we may have slept on the floor, in the same bed or on the couch. Don't nitpick these kind of details when you're first splitting up with your co-parent. It's OKAY for children to not have a bed sometimes. They're going to be just fine. I encourage you to try to get beds for the kids as soon as you're able to do so, but it's not the end of the world if the kids share a bed together when they're young. They will probably actually enjoy doing so. This isn't a battle worth picking if it means no overnights to the other parent. Take a deep breath and view it as an adventure for the kids, as long as they have their sleeping bags or blankets and a pillow, encourage them that this is how it feels to camp under the stars except you're inside.
d.) Different Dietary Consumption: This is a common complaint I hear. "He/She only feeds them fast food and I only feed them 100% organic foods." This is a huge problem for some people. It's difficult to instill a sense of health and nutrition into children when the junk-food parent is undermining the health-conscious parent's efforts to educate their children to make healthy food choices. I've seen some parents who actually rebel against the healthy parent intentionally because that parent harbors resentment over the health-conscious parent "controlling" their diet during the relationship. PARENTS: STOP REBELLING AGAINST YOUR CO-PARENT FOR ISSUES THAT YOU NEED TO WORK THROUGH!
Most fast food restaurants offer somewhat healthy options to choose from. An occasional cheeseburger and fries isn't going to harm a child, obviously, but to allow them to make a habit of consuming that type of food is likely to lead to poor nutritional habits. Where the health-conscious parent can get resolution, however, is to try this approach: Say to your pre-teen child, "You're able to eat whatever you choose to put in your mouth. I've taught you what foods are going to be GOOD for your body and which ones will HURT your body. So you decide if you want to HURT your body or be KIND to it. I can't monitor your every decision, so I'm going to trust in you that you're capable to making good choices." With that, you've got to relinquish control. Your battle will drive you bonkers and there isn't a legal remedy available to you unless your child suffers severe health consequences as a result.
When your children are younger than 9, however, you're going to have to try to train their brain in a fun way how to choose the healthy options and how to decline the unhealthy ones. Try planting a garden with them and teach them how to maintain it. As for teenagers... by then they've already got minds of their own, so your efforts were either effective or they weren't.
How do you embrace this difference? Be thankful that they have at least one parent who is making the effort to teach them the difference between healthy choices and non-healthy choices. Not all kids have that information, some have two unhealthy-choice-making parents. Control that which you have control over and trust that the child will make good choices when you're not around. I encourage you to not question your child upon their return... that may lead to a child who ends up lying to you. Allow your child tell YOU things they openly disclose and you will gain their trust that way.
I hope this article helps you reassess your desire to be RIGHT versus your desire to be HAPPY and to raise HAPPY, WELL-BALANCED CHILDREN.
Contact me at: (805) 654-1292 if you desire a peaceful parenting plan with your co-parent. Angela