From the Coparenting Coach's Desk

Are you sharing your children? Or are you dividing them, like property?

Some parents approach their 2 home kids as if they were dividing property or proceeds from the sale of property -- I have a claim and a right and I want my equal share! Everyone would probably agree that the transfer of a property deed probably is a big deal in terms of doing it on 12/31/16 VS 01/01/17. But not so much the case when you are talking about sharing a special family meal or a special day with your 2 home kid. Making sure it is EQUAL certainly is important when you are splitting money between 2 people who each have a claim to it, but sharing kid time with the other parent is not a matter of property or equality. It's a matter of love and care and support for a child. Your child is not a time share, so put down the calculator. Percentages are for child support, not parenting. They are completely separate issues.

And I know that some of you are saying right now..."but you don't understand! My situation is special! It's different for me!" The truth is, all families are different from one another. So you're right - you probably are special or unique in some way. However, children don't care about the amount of time they spend with a parent, they care about being truly seen, heard, loved and accepted. The surroundings, the details, the circumstances are not what matters most to a child. It's the true presence, at every level, of a parent in the moment who can see, hear, love and accept. Try it. For the sake of your child, try it.

All children need attention and love from both parents in order to thrive.  It is the quality of the time together that nourishes the child, not the amount of time. And some children need a primary home base in order to thrive. Children with special needs almost always need a home base. Children who have anxiety about change or become disorganized with changes in routine need a home base. Unfortunately, when parents are fighting over custody --which means fighting over equality, adult worth, and money -- the parents may not be actively listening to the child to truly honor best interest of the child. Instead, the focus is in on the needs of the parents and the needs of the child are secondary or not considered at all. 

Home base for many special needs children means they start and end their day in the same place every day.  For example, routine is critical for most children on the Autism Spectrum. Special needs children absolutely must have cooperative co-parents because both parents must be committed to safeguarding calm and peaceful routines for the child. If there is conflict between parents of a special needs child, one parent needs to have decision-making authority so the child doesn't miss appointments, miss medication, or lose out on therapies and educational support critical to optimal daily functioning. 

Routine is critical for children birth to 3 years old as well. Continuity in their external environment allows the inner environment of mind-thinking, mood-feeling, cognition-learning to develop in a healthy way. Money matters but love and nurture matter more. It is scary for everybody when a family breaks apart. And one of the real grown-up fears is money. How will I do this? How will we survive? That is why mediation is almost always a better choice than litigation. Mediation allows the parents to work together to conserve the family resources and find solutions that are good-enough for both of the households that emerge from the shared living arrangement.

However you do it, it's critical to find a way to learn to sacrifice for your children as you learn to share them between two homes. Your kids will thank you for the peace you create for everyone when you stop the battle. Take a deep breath and take the risk of just being with your children for whatever time you have. Don't fight it. Embrace what is, not what you wish for. Be thankful. Be loving. Just be...with your child. St Augustin got it right, "Peace in society depends on peace in the family."