Like traveling to any foreign land, making the shift from married parents to divorced co-parents requires learning a new language, paying attention to local customs and rituals, and maintaining an openness and ability to withhold judgement (particularly around differences). When I was in my late teens and on my first flight to Europe, I listened to the couple in front of me incessantly complain and criticize everything the hard-working flight attendant served them. “What is this? Where are the scrambled eggs, toast, and bacon?” It seemed that nothing but familiar, hometown fare would do despite that fact that we were all on a flight to France and being served a delicious and typical French breakfast (Then why travel? I wondered…)
Divorce presents a series of steps or tasks parents must accomplish not unlike taking a trip to a new continent and to a very different culture. In order to maximize the journey, research, preparation, understanding and flexibility along the way are essential. Similarly, an attitude of open-mindedness, patience, and a willingness to tolerate a level of discomfort during the trip (think cramped airline seats, long lines, and navigating unfamiliar cuisines) are needed. Is this too much to ask for during what for many is the worst time of their lives?
One of many areas requiring new understanding, a change of habits, and an agreed upon plan is co-parent communication. For instance, if one of you served as your family’s ‘air traffic controller’ by coordinating activities, scheduling necessary transportation, managing meal planning, homework, and family routines within scheduling confines, etc., what happens now? How will plans for the kids be coordinated and communicated across two households? How does what was once the role of one parent transition to an ongoing collaborative effort between you?
Or, let’s consider a communication issue that appears even earlier in the trip: How will you talk with your children about your plan to divorce? Who will say what? Where, when, and how will this be communicated? How will a child or children’s questions be addressed and by whom? Again, having conversations around an agreed upon roadmap, an understanding and willingness to tolerate the unanticipated twists and turns along the way is needed.
Luckily, there are many experienced divorce ‘tour guides’ available to assist you in navigating the issues above (and the many others that will arise during your family’s version of this trip). Just as you might pick a service/individual to help you plan and execute your journey, you can interview, network, and research your way to finding the right person or persons to help you navigate to your new co-parent destination. I am wishing you both the best possible journey filled with many successes and good learning along the way.