Roughly 35 percent of children under the age of 18 have parents that live in separate homes. In Florida, family court works to award split custody and time sharing between parents, unless there is a specific or dangerous reason. Separated parents and splitting time between households does not automatically lead to a lifetime of confusion or unhappiness for children. St. Petersburg child therapist Juli Hindsley shares some strategies that parents can use together to navigate the situation as best as possible.
Consistency is key – and even more so when it comes to your child’s schedule. If you can, try to agree on bedtimes, routines, as well as other common situations, like diet, screen time, bathing, etc., faced each day. If the child is in bed at 8PM at mom’s house, then having bedtime at 8PM at dad’s will lead to less confusion and hopefully less whining.
Hindsley suggests clear and direct agreements and communication around how often and when a child can speak to the other parent when not with them. If one parent allows open communication while the other discourages it, the child may feel caught in the middle.
The St. Petersburg child therapist also encourages parents to be purposeful about saying supportive and positive things about the other parent in front of the child. She adds, “One of the scariest things for a split-home child is worrying about hurting a parent’s feelings by saying something nice about the other parent. By making one kind statement about the other parent once a day or week – whatever your goal may be – you’re showing your child it’s okay to do so.”
The Child & Family Therapy Center offers parent coaching sessions, which go through these topics and more in great detail. This beneficial program also offers unlimited emails to tweak and hone the co-parenting relationship as often as desired.