This post and the last one expand on the thought that parents can and should do more on their own regarding parenting, and that parents can effectively be their own parenting coordinator (the ultimate way to save money!).
Parenting coordinators help resolve parenting issues that either aren’t covered by your parenting plan, or that fall in a gray area of your Plan, so that the two parents just plain disagree about something. Some of these suggestions in this post and the last one are the same things a parenting coordinator would do (or help the parent do), but ALL of these strategies for resolving things with the other parent can be done without a PC.
Part II – #6-10.
6. If you have a history of sending extensive, long, drawn-out emails to the other parent, you need to look into counseling for yourself to find out why you’re doing that. And to find out how to stop yourself. I can’t say it any more directly — there is something wrong in your life if you repeatedly write (and send) emails to the other parent that talk about how awful s/he was in the past, or how bad a parent s/he is, or that repeat, over and over, how YOUR opinion is “in the children’s best interests” and theirs isn’t. You need help, as these emails are evidence of something wrong in your life that you haven’t dealt with yet.
7. Read your Parenting Plan and all court orders. It’s amazing, but the majority of parents I’ve talked to over the years haven’t read all their court orders. You may think you read that Plan when you signed it, but at that point you were emotional and unfocused and you will forget things. Sit down and read it again, with a highlighter. Make some notes on it; make an index to it. The only time this advice doesn’t apply is if you and your ex are getting along so well that you almost never disagree on anything and you just do what’s best for your kids. (If that’s the case, why are you reading this post?) If there’s something major missing in your court orders, like what happens if a parent wants to get a passport and take the children to Spain for vacation, and you’re not sure how to handle that, then do some research, find out what you think the Plan should say about passports and travel abroad, and propose that to your ex and see what happens. But some of the things you’re worried about might already be in your Plan.
8. Create a calendar. The App Store is lousy with parenting calendars these days. If the issues between you and the other parent involve time-sharing or mix-ups about children’s activities, these things need to be in a written and shared online calendar. Calendars are particularly important for those times of year when there are a bunch of exceptions to the regular parenting plan — this means most of the period between mid-November and mid-January, and the period from the last day of school through the start of school. The many changes (holidays, vacations, no-school days) during those periods of time mean that the regular parenting schedule is gone and both parents should be consulting the calendar almost daily to make sure they’ve got the schedule right.
It’s no secret that much of what a paid parenting coordinator does is create calendars for people, usually at a cost of $200-400/ hour. You can do this yourself.
9. Examine the way you speak to your children, including the times, frequency, duration, and content of your talks with them. While they’re with you, be conscious of not saying derogatory things about the other parent (or that family or household). Don’t ask excessive questions about what goes on at the other parent’s house. While it’s fine to ask what your children are interested in or what foods they’re eating or what they’re watching on the computer, don’t get too personal about their other home. While you’re at it, ask if they want to put pictures of the other parent (or parent’s family) out in their room at your house. They may have a step-parent or step-siblings, and having pictures of the other home can be comforting to children. Always be the bigger person. It doesn’t matter if the other parent would never consider having a picture of you at his/ her house. Your kids will appreciate you taking the high road.
10. Speaking with your children while they’re at their other home also requires awareness. While with the other parent, your children have a life. Too many calls or texts from you may be disrupting that life. You, similarly, are expected to have a life on your own while the children are away, and that life shouldn’t be focused on knowing what they’re doing every moment. Consider whether you NEED to speak (or text) with your children every day while they’re at the other home — do they need it, or do you?
I realize there are cases where the children are calling you constantly while with the other parent, and you feel obligated to talk to them every time. But try to imagine sending a child off to camp, and s/he wants to call you every day. As a parent, isn’t your “camp” response to tell the child to have a good time, go do the activities, and ask him NOT to call you that much? That’s the attitude you should take with a child who’s calling too often from the other parent’s house. Unless they’re calling to tell you that they’re home alone and scared, there’s nothing much you can do about what goes on at the other parent’s’ home. If they say there’s nothing to eat there, isn’t it likely that there’s nothing they WANT to eat there right now? So don’t send Door Dash to the other parent’s house. (Yes, I’ve seen that done.)
If a child is telling you, while at the other parent’s, that they miss you, want to come home, and the like, again, consider your “camp” response. Kids need to grow and have new experiences. Consider the possibility that a child is telling you what he thinks you want to hear. Comfort them — “I’ll see you on Tuesday!” and encourage them to have a great time. If you know your child would be comforted by reading a certain book, email the other parent to say “By the way, Claudia LOVES the Lemony Snicket books now”. Anything you do to help the other parent know what your child loves is a gift directly to your child.