05-27-2020 05:30 PM - edited 05-27-2020 05:31 PM
Ask a Child and Family Professional
Shared Custody: My ex and I share custody of our kids, but the living conditions and standards in each household are so different. How do I have a conversation with my ex about this?
Whenever a parent talks to me about shared custody I immediately think of “Team Parenting”- the concept that both parents are on the same page, with agreed values, rules and boundaries. This does not always happen naturally and can be difficult after a relationship breakdown, however it will provide the consistency and dependability that teens’ crave (even though they may not admit to it!).
BUILD THE FOUNDATION:
As a starting point, it is ideal for both parents to come together to discuss, negotiate and compromise on how this arrangement will work. Keep your teen at the heart of the conversation and focus on your shared goals for them. Practice using the same skills we encourage you to use when communicating with your teen – it a great opportunity to role-model positive communication!
- Use active listening
- Use “I statements” to express yourself
- Take breaks if your emotions are getting too big
- Ensure you have your own self-care plan to manage this challenging time
Remember, this will be a harder task for some, so don’t be afraid to reach out for support to achieve this goal. You could ask a shared trusted friend to help you navigate this, or access support from a professional (mediation or counselling).
INVOLVE YOUR TEEN:
Once the “Team Parent” standards are set for both houses, it’s time to involve your teens. Teenagers like consistency. Their lives outside the home can seem quite hectic so it’s important that home life is predictable and they understand what is expected of them. A teen can have a secure base in two different homes. There may still be some differences between the two households and that’s ok, as long as it’s consistent, predictable and communicated clearly to your teen.
When inviting your teen into these discussions, consider using a Family Meeting approach. Ensure that your teen has a real opportunity to express their wishes, and that you give their opinion consideration. Be clear about what rules are non-negotiables and where you are willing to be flexible. Be honest about the challenges you are facing, and the times perhaps you didn’t do things as well as you would have liked to. These are all opportunities to build communication skills, and strengthen connection with your teen.
Be kind to yourself, and remember with anything new, there is a bit of trial and error. As you work through this as a family you will find ways to make your situation work for everyone
Child & Family Professional, The Benevolent Society
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