Divorced or separated parents have to live, day by day, with the consequences to their children of the choices which they make as adults. Good choices for the children can be difficult to make, in the “fog” of separation or divorce. Whether you are separated, thinking about separation, divorced, or in the middle of a case on either, here are some suggestions from experienced divorce attorneys in Charleston for handling your extended summer times with your children:
1) Don’t use this time to say bad things about your children’s other parent or members of their family.
It’s easy to slip up but vital that you do not. Don’t forget. Ever.
2) Make sure that your children are able to speak with their absent parent on a daily basis.
The children should be permitted to call the other parent at reasonable times, and their absent parent should be able to call in at a reasonable time, at least one time per day. There is so much to be gained by having a casual attitude about contact with the absent parent; you contribute to the children’s sense of security and predictability immeasurably by making sure that ongoing contact is permitted, and that your children are comfortable in their knowledge that ongoing contact is permitted and unquestioned.
3) Let’s go above and beyond just what is “permitted.”
As divorce attorneys in Charleston, we advise our clients to go above and beyond the terms of any Order under which you may be living. You are allowed to do more than any Order may impose on you – if ongoing contact is left out of your Order, allow it anyway. Children need to know that they are safe with both of their parents, and that both of their parents agree with that concept.
4) As always, actions speak louder than words.
Body language, facial expressions, and gestures are rapidly picked up by your children. If you say “sure” but your face says “yuck” you can be sure your children will pick up the conflicting messages and be puzzled by them. Remember that they will want to be where they are comfortable. If you want that them to be comfortable with you (and I am assuming that you do) then don’t put them into awkward positions.
5) Selfish parenting reaps untold damage on children.
My family joined me for dinner at a Chinese restaurant recently. At the table beside us, a young woman was waiting for her husband, with their two sons and with his daughter from his prior marriage. The boys were very young, one still an infant, and the little girl was around five years old. She was very silently crying, tears running down her cheeks yet not making a sound. In the fifteen or so minutes they waited for the father to arrive, the girl’s stepmother continually scolded her – because she had asked if she could speak with her mother on the phone. “You can talk to her on Sunday when you go back to her” and “Why are you crying?” and “You are such an ungrateful child” and on and on. The father arrived, was updated by the stepmother in the harshest of terms, and the little girl got another scolding: “This is MY time with you, not HERS” and “You need to forget about HER when you are with me” and “Are you trying to make me sad?” I cannot even capture the sadness of the child, who eventually ended up on her father’s lap promising him that she would not every try to call her Mommy again when she was with her daddy.
6) Everything you can do to contribute to stability and continuity for your children is vital to their well-being.
The “predictability” of life in one setting or the other helps them grow and learn, and trust. Think about that when you are tempted to ignore their natural urge to hear the other parent’s voice.