Co-parenting comes with a unique set of challenges for all involved. Having a realistic set of expectations for what’s to come can help with this transition.
Remember yourself as a child. Do you remember being homesick while staying over at your friend’s or grandparents’ house? Do you remember missing your parents, siblings, or even your pet? Do you ever think back and wonder if your parents ever missed you too while you were away from home?
Now, try to imagine yourself as a child that has two homes. You have to bounce from house to house throughout the week and visit with each of your parent(s) and siblings. This means you are transitioning and trying to focus on each family during those times. Each family may have different house rules, eating patterns, family traditions, holiday schedules, etc.… That could get overwhelming, right?!
Think how hard it is for you to come home from a vacation. You always want a few days of rest before heading back to work. This is how many children feel when they have two homes. Most don’t ever feel like they are rested. It can be very exhausting for them.
Now, imagine yourself as a parent to this child that has two homes. Many divorced parents will typically share joint physical custody, meaning they both get to see their child equally between both homes, and their child can make memories equally between both homes. While this situation is the best for the child, it can cause a lot of emotional challenges.
One of the hardest parts about co-parenting is understanding that missing your child is normal when they are with their other parent. My family still struggles with this concept, and we have been doing this for over a decade. For example, there have been some times when my stepdaughter could not come with us on our family vacations. And there are sometimes when we may not see her for a week or so when she is gone with her other family. Are we missing her during these times? Absolutely. We all do, her brothers included…It is a hard concept to grasp, knowing that you won’t be seeing someone you love so much for many days on end.
It’s perfectly normal to miss your children while they are with the other parent. However, you are not alone. The other parent is probably thinking the same thing while away from them. And guess what? Your child is missing you too while they are not home with you. However, the child needs that bonding time with each family, and so does each parent. If they each don’t get that time, this is time they will never get back with their family.
I cannot stress enough the importance of allowing children time to bond with each of their families equally. Most experts recommend a 50/50 schedule when possible. There are some great equal custody arrangements for co-parenting:
- The 2-2-3 schedule: Your child spends two days with one parent, 2 days with the other parent, and then 3 days with the first parent. The following week, you switch.
- The 3-4-4-3 schedule: Your child spends 3 days with one parent, 4 days with the other parent, and then you switch the following days.
- The week on, week off schedule: Your child spends 7 days with one parent, then switches the following week.
Having consistency is key in schedules, especially if the child can see their family a few days stretched together. This helps the child not think they are only a visitor in their home.
Children win when both parents can conquer co-parenting peacefully. This means making parenting decisions that are not only best for you and your time. Your child has two parents and two homes. They want both parents to be involved in their life decision-making for them. If you can’t agree on something with your co-parent, try to come to an agreement that will support both of your decisions. Don’t just tell the other parent what you know best, and that is the end solution. You are a team for your child.
If you work with the other parent, they will likely work back with you. They just want to be a part of their child’s life. Don’t take that away from your child. The children are living a life that they never chose. Aim for the best co-parenting situation for you and your children. Every family situation is different. However, if both parents are safe and stable and want to be a part of the children’s lives, the children deserve that life equally with each of their parents. They have feelings too.
My best advice is to stay busy while they are away from you. If your children are gone for more than a few days or if you need to tell them something, be respectful and ask the other parent first when it’s a good time to call or text. This allows the child uninterrupted time and lets the child focus on bonding with their other parent and family.
There are many apps out there that may interrupt your child when they are with their other family, such as phone tracking, secret texting apps, and even doorbell/security camera apps. Be respectful of each family’s time, and don’t use those applications to spy on your children while they are at their other home.
Being a child living in two homes and being a parent with a child with two homes is never easy on anyone. Always be respectful and respect each parent. Both parents do matter. Now, remember this phrase, “It is ok to miss your child when they are not with you.” It is ok.
Enjoy your life! Be grateful for what you actually do have. You deserve that time to yourself. Your child deserves it too.