Have your child travel with a notebook to write down thoughts and updates
In our last blog post, I went through all of the different technological advances that can be utilized to benefit your relationship with your ex-spouse. The strength of your relationship with the person that you just divorced isn't intended to heal any old wounds or anything like that. Instead, your relationship with your ex-spouse is now essential insofar as it concerns your child and your abilities to co-parent.
With this goal in mind, I recommend taking an old school notebook and sticking it in your child's overnight bag as they travel from your house to your ex-spouses. Fill in the date in the margin and allow your ex-spouse room to write updates on your child (if they are sick, for example) or just observations in general. As a parent of two children under the age of three, I know how much time is spent guessing about whether something is wrong with your child based on this or that habit or body movement.
Make it a legitimate notebook rather than loose-leaf paper and a paperclip so that the pages have to stick together, and there is no risk of pages getting out of order or anything like that. Yes, I understand that tablets, laptops, and other superior examples of technology could also perform this role. Be my guest if you are comfortable sharing your tablet with your ex-spouse. A run-of-the-mill notebook will suffice for our purposes.
A potential drawback of the notebook idea is that if you have more extended periods of possession with your child than, say, a weekend, it may be challenging to communicate timely messages or questions to your ex-spouse in the manner you do so via the notebook. The notebook could be lost, and your child could also come across the notebook and read it, which may lead to awkward interactions.
Utilizing the notebook to benefit your child
When it is coming close to the time you will be handing off your child to his other parent, you should take a few moments to share your observations and give your ex-spouse any information you believe is essential for them to see.
If your child has been to the doctor, provide your ex-spouse with the diagnosis made and any instructions for administering medication. Don't assume that the instructions are clear enough on the label to the prescription. Write out instructions long-hand for your spouse to see. That way, if they have questions about anything, a phone call will be all that is needed to clear up any misunderstandings.
On the lighter side, if there is a birthday party your child has the following weekend where a gift needs to be purchased that can be communicated early rather than at the last minute. Planning is a good thing for your child if you haven't noticed. Spending money on a gift isn't a problem, but having to rush around and look for an appropriate present at the last minute sure is.
During your period of possession, if you noticed anything alarming regarding your child- a bad habit, foul language being used, or a disrespectful attitude- share that with your ex-spouse as well. If you notice a bad habit, nip it in the bud and stay on top of it as your possession period comes to an end that may do some good in the short term. However, once your child returns to your ex-spouse, it may not be a point of focus or even be noticed. The bad habit will return, and your child will be encouraged to act poorly due to one parent ostensibly approving of the behavior.
When you drop your child off with your ex-spouse, it is your ex-spouse's responsibility to immediately read the notebook to see if any updates need attention that day. General updates and things to watch out for are essential and can help that parent set the tone for their period of possession. I don't mean to give you the impression that your child's visits with you need to be regimented like in a jail. Still, some structure and a lot of communication will improve your child's upbringing, in my opinion, and experience.
Examples of what to include in an update for your infant and toddler
The information that you report and share will differ depending upon your child's age. Young children (three and under) will have more focus on the essential items to life: a feeding schedule, bathroom updates if potty training, sleeping program, as well as explanations of bruises and scratches. Your ex-spouse would have problems if they immediately attempt to feed your child formula if you provided her right before drop-off time. A writing down of the schedule that she has been on regarding her meals can help everyone avoid over-feeding.
For a child in school, the focus goes away from the essentials of life and more towards their schoolwork and extracurricular activities' schedule. As we touched on earlier in today's blog post, if birthday parties are upcoming, then your ex-spouse will need to be aware if transportation is needed or if a gift must still be purchased.
If your ex-spouse has only a schedule of football games and isn't a part of the team e-mail list, she may not know that the conditions on the regular playing field were too poor for play and that their game on Saturday has been moved across town. Make sure to communicate this in your notebook updates. Don't expect your ex-spouse to ask you, and don't expect your child to share these details with you. Take the initiative and do the work yourself.
A focus on homework and projects
Parents in today's world comment to me frequently that it seems like more and more homework is being assigned compared to when we all were in school. This may be true. My kids are too young for me to have first-hand knowledge. Regardless, those assignments can involve the use of technology, purchasing items at a store, or even sustained review and experimentation for particular classes over many days.
For example, suppose your child has a project to place a rusty penny in a cup filled with soda to track the appearance of the penny over a few days. In that case, it will not be good if you don't tell your spouse about the three-day assignment until the last day of his period of possession. Your spouse will become annoyed that your communication system has failed. Your child's marks in school will suffer. After all, she could not complete an assignment because her parents did not work together to facilitate communication. Do not make this mistake. Communicate early and often. Use of the notebook, while tedious and not technologically advanced, will see to it that you do not experience snafus like this.
More co-parenting tools and systems in tomorrow's blog
They have to raise a child after a divorce is difficult. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, benefit from witnessing parents who succeed after divorce and struggle with their co-parenting after this challenging time in everyone's lives. To learn more on this subject, come back tomorrow to look at some additional hints and tips that we have to share.
If you have questions about post-divorce life and raising children, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, today. We work with clients and families across southeast Texas, and we would be honored to do the same for you. A free-of-charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys is only a phone call away.