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 in order to benefit your relationship to 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. Rather, your relationship with your ex-spouse is now important 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 he or she travels from your house to your ex-spouse’s. Fill in the date in the margin and allow your ex-spouse room to write updates on your child (if he or she is 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 there are tablets, laptops and other superior examples of technology that could also perform this role. If you are comfortable sharing your tablet with your ex-spouse, be my guest. A run of the mill notebook will suffice for our purposes.
A potential drawback of the notebook idea is that if you have longer periods of possession with your child than, say, a weekend, it may be difficult to communicate timely messages or questions to your ex-spouse if the manner that you do so is via the notebook. Obviously the notebook could be lost and your child could also come across the notebook and read it which may lead to some awkward interactions.
Utilizing the notebook to benefit your child
When it is coming close to the time that 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 that you believe to be important for him or her to see.
If your child has been to the doctor provide your ex-spouse 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 he or she has 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 that 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 when it comes to 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 that is 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 emboldened 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 there are any updates that need attention that day. General updates and things to watch out for are important as well 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, but 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
Obviously the information that you report and share will differ depending upon the age of your child. Young children (three and under) will have more focus on the essential items to life: a feeding schedule, bathroom updates if potty training, sleeping schedule as well as explanations of bruises and scratches. Your ex-spouse will have problems if he or she immediately attempts to feed your child formula if you fed her right before drop off time. A writing down of the schedule that she has been on regarding her meals can help everyone avoid things like over-feeding.
For a child who is in school the focus goes away from the essentials of life and more towards their school work 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 in the event that 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 normal 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 communicate these details for 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 use of technology, the purchase of items at a store or even sustained review and experimentation for particular classes over the course of many days.
For example, if your child has a project to place a rusty penny in cup filled with soda in order to track the appearance of the penny over the course of a few days, 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 because she was unable to 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
Having to raise a child after a divorce is difficult. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC have the benefit of witnessing parents who succeed after divorce and that struggle with their co-parenting after this difficult time in everyone’s lives. To learn more on this subject come back tomorrow to take a 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.