Welcome to Splitsville. This weekly column will focus on parenting after a divorce, break-up or one-night stand that didn’t end like a Katherine Heigl movie.
We expect our children to share. We ask them to share their toys with friends. We teach them to share their feelings with us. We spend a whole lot of time instructing our children on the importance of sharing.
So when it comes to our ex’s, how much should we be giving away? I’m not talking about time. Every couple has had that worked out by the court system or has come to some workable form of agreement. I’m talking about sharing information. Open communication between separated parents is imperative. Both parties must know about the ins and outs of their child. They need to know about sniffles and routines, favorite foods and new accomplishments. Logically, each parent needs to know about anything that effects their child’s life.
That sounds reasonable, in theory. But as parents, we know that logic doesn’t always pan out. Think back to every decision you made since waking up this morning. Chances are, each one effects your child in its own way. What you had for breakfast probably determined what your child had for breakfast. Your decision to work late effected their nightly routine. Whether or not you washed your hands before lunch could decide whether you get the flu this weekend, which you could pass to your child. These are all minuscule examples. Now think about the big ones. Where you choose to work changes your ability to provide for your kids. If you decide to date again, you bring a whole new person into your child’s life. If you want more kids, you’re child will suddenly have new siblings.
So how many of these big decisions do we need to be discussing with our ex’s? If we need to communicate about everything that effects our children, should we be sharing our most personal details with our former partners? As much as I wish it wasn’t case, I think we should. Major life decisions by parents create major life changes for children. Your ex has to know that those changes are taking place.
They have to know about changes in your life, but they don’t always get to have an opinion. Your child’s other parent has to know if you start dating again, but they don’t get to determine when you introduce your new partner and your children. They have to know if you’re financial situation or schedule will be changing dramatically, but they don’t get to advise you on your choices. And they even get to know if you’re expecting more children to join your family, but it can’t change your support or visitation arrangements. Even better, this all works both ways. You get to know about their personal life, but you don’t get to advise them on it. As awkward and unnecessary as it may seem, separated parents have to share their personal information long after being personally involved. It’s not just marriage that lasts for better or worse.