Ideas for Parenting Partners & Split Custody Situations
If you and your ex share custody and/or are partners in parenting who are civil and get along well, here are some ideas that can help you stay connected:
1. Participate in bedtime routines together
As pointed out earlier, the little things are in fact a big part of parenting. One of these "little" things that is particularly meaningful, especially to younger kids, are bedtime routines.
Just because the other parent isn't physically there doesn’t mean they can't participate in the bedtime ritual for kids. If you and your ex-spouse still have a good rapport with each other, call the other parent, put the phone on speaker, and tuck the child into bed together. Have the other parent on the line as you read a bedtime story. The other parent can comment or make jokes after each page, or simply listen in to the story, which gives children comfort knowing that the other parent is there with them. It's feeling their presence that matters.
This may be especially important right after the split-up, when children are struggling with the new arrangement and missing the other parent. As time goes on you can start to cut back to a few times a week or whatever is workable, but try to continue the process for as long as the kids want.
2. Support your children's extra-curricular activities together
Whether it's your son's soccer game or your daughter's dance recital, it will mean a lot to your child to have both of her parent's there, cheering them on together. To know that the two of you are still able to come together and support them means a great deal. Also, since this is one of those areas of life (much like holidays) when divorced children tend to feel nostalgic towards the past or jealous of what other children from intact families have, making a point to come together on these occasions helps children feel like they still have a family, and can save them a lot of heartache.
3. Agree to share parenting time for a child's routine activities
Does your child play sports? If so, then they probably have practices a couple times a week. There's no reason why you can't open the door for the other parent to attend these routine activities, even if it's the other parent's custody time. Try to find whatever routine activities that are on your child's schedule, occasions when they already have to be a certain place at a certain time, and agree to let either parent come hang out at these events and interact with the children.
4. Encourage casual get-togethers
In the friendship-based family where everyone gets along, there's no reason why you can't invite the other parent to join you for certain activities, even when it's your parenting time. So if you were going to take the kids to the park and you suspect the other parent is free, call them up and invite them to meet you there. Without getting too obsessive or applying any pressure, make a pledge that if you're doing something that lets the other parent hang out without imposing, you'll call with an invite. This allows both parents opportunities to see the kids on their off week, so that neither they nor the kids have to go a long period of time without seeing each other.
5. Hang out at day care.
Most parents don't work the exact same schedules, and many times one parent may be off from work when the other parent has custody and the kids are in day care. If so, stop by and visit them, or if the other parent allows it, take the kids until they get off work and volunteer to deliver them as soon as they get home (or just return them to day care). Most quality centers are happy to accommodate parents dropping by and hanging out, so long as they aren't creating a disturbance in the kids. (It's no good if it takes the teacher half an hour to get them to stop crying after you leave.) But if you're able to swing it, it's another way to steal a little physical contact during your time away from them.