You and your ex have agreed to an uncontested divorce without lawyers and a co-parenting schedule—and you’re determined to make it work. This all may seem easier said than done, but if you’ve managed to divorce without lawyers, we think you can probably handle what comes next which, if you have children, is co-parenting successfully. Click here to glance the It’s Over Easy co-parenting calendar templates that have worked for many families and for shorter visits here are 5 things you can do to maximize your concentrated time with your kid(s).
1. Arrive On Time.
Pick up and drop off on time. Your child will appreciate the sense of security and trust that comes from knowing you'll be there when you say you will.
If you're the pick-up parent, it's also a good idea to show up a few minutes early to allow for a smooth transition. This is especially true for younger children. As excited as your child may be to see you, they may be just as worried about leaving the other parent. Don't be surprised if your child cries when it's time for you guys to go or says they want to stay home. Successful co-parenting requires you and your ex to work together. Presenting a united front after your divorce without lawyers will benefit your child and if you both focus on the facts — Daddy or Mommy will bring you home when the clock says 7:00 — and being positive, this will work!
The same is true when it's time for you to go. Don't give in to the temptation to reinforce your child's "please don't go.” Stay focused on the bigger picture—you and your children’s other parent are co-parenting between two households. You've navigated your uncontested divorce without lawyers and now it's time to remind your child of your family’s plan for success in this next chapter of all of your lives.
2. Real Life Is 24/7
Real life continues when it’s your turn with the kid(s). Maybe a visit to the laundromat is necessary or the kitchen could use a good scrubbing. Be honest with your child about why you need to do these things (It's a great way to model responsibility) and give them some age appropriate ways they can help. Young children can sort clothes by color or fold socks, and older children can work on dusting and wiping. Divorce without lawyers doesn't mean you need to do everything on your own!
If you don't see your child every day of the week, you may feel like you need grand plans for every visit. We know going to Chuck-E-Cheese or out to the movies is fun, but spending time together doesn’t have to cost money and it doesn’t need to take place outside of your household. Coloring together, playing a board game or cards or even just making a meal can be a great bonding experience and a chance for fun, conversation and memory making.
3. Quality v. Quantity.
Now is not the time to check your emails or try to finally beat the boss level of your favorite game. Children know the difference between spending time with them and spending time near them. If you can't resist the urge to scroll through social media, put your phone on do not disturb or turn it totally off. Set up a vacation-style auto response for emails, and let your friends and family know that you won't be reachable during those specific hours. Part of what made your divorce without lawyers successful is that you know how to be responsible, so if you turn off your phone or close out of you in box, just make sure to let your ex know ahead of time so they don't panic if they try to call or email you and can't get through. If you need some ideas about communicating after your divorce without lawyers, click here for some ideas.
Another good way to ensure you're staying engaged is to focus on eye contact. While there's nothing wrong with reading a book on a bench while your kid plays at the park, think how much more of a memory you'll make if you hop up and climb on the monkey bars too.
4. Kids Choice?
Ask them what they'd like to do with you and then try to make that happen. If they suggest something that doesn't fit into the time constraints or the budget, be honest about the reasons why and suggest something similar or reasonable that’s a better fit. For example, maybe you can't drive an hour away to see a hockey game but you could go ice-skating together, or do something else that involves sports. After a divorce without lawyers and all the fuss associated with them, you may be happily surprised that your child really just wants to hang out with you or is easily pleased with a trip to the neighborhood park to feed the ducks.
5. Kids Are Welcome Here
Even if your child spends most nights at your co-parent’s household, it’s still recommended that you have an area for your child at your house. Having their own “space” when they’re at your place will help them to feel like they're still a part of your family and part of you when they move from one co-parents home to another. It also shows your child with actions — not just words — that you've made a place for them in your life. Knowing that Mom got them a bed and a dresser with clothes makes it a lot easier to believe that they really will see her again soon.
It's also important to keep in mind that just because your visits are short now, it doesn't mean they always will be. One of the benefits to filing your divorce without lawyers is that you and your former spouse have already proven "you got this" and you can carry that forward to adjust child custody arrangements, which are always subject to change, and if you and your ex are agreeable to an amended schedule, you can make alternations in the future. Read more about custody and visitation options and how you can work toward more time with your child here.