January 2009 - A Fresh Start
The new year is a time when you may feel inspired to start a diet, begin exercising,
take control of your finances, or organize your closets. It’s also a good
time to have a “re-do” on your relationship with your ex.
Use a Critical Eye
Take some time to think about your parenting plan, how you relate to each other,
and your financial arrangements. Instead of just putting up with things as they
are, isolate the problems, the kinks, and the annoyances in your situation.
Make a list of what is wrong, what needs to change, and what can be improved
Think of Solutions
If you confront your ex with your list, it will simply be a list of complaints,
yet another clash between the two of you. If, however, you go through your list
and think of possible solutions or alternatives to the problems, you’ll
instead be inviting discussion and cooperation. Try to come up with solutions
that benefit everyone if possible.
If you’re feeling that the visitation that happens every weekend from
Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon is too much, since you never get solid
weekend time with your child, you could propose that instead your ex have your
child every other weekend from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. He’ll
get a longer period of time, which may make it easier for him and your child
to settle in together, and you’ll get two completely free weekends a month,
as well as two full weekends with your child. Everyone wins.
Another example involves child support. In these tough economic times, child
support is more important than ever for you to receive, but may be harder than
ever for him to pay. There are some creative solutions to consider. One way
to make child support easier for him to swallow is to arrange for him to directly
pay for certain things. For example, instead of paying you $100 in cash, have
him instead pay for that month’s tae kwon do bill for your son. One big
problem with child support is that fathers often don’t feel as though
it is actually benefiting their children.
A third example involves a common problem – communication. So many divorced
parents have a difficult time talking to each other about even the smallest
things. Often bitterness from the divorce has lingered. In other cases, the
parents become very distant from each other since they never really interact
and they come to assume the worst about each other. If you’re in this
kind of situation, asking your ex to call a truce can help you get on more civil
footing. Say that you plan to respect him and be civil and you hope maybe he
can do the same.
Talk It Over
Once you have some problems and possible solutions, present them to your ex
in the right way. Don’t tell him “this is what we’re doing
from now on”. Get him involved in the process. Ask for his input. Maybe
he has some other solutions to the problems you have isolated. He may also have
some other problems he wants to put on the table. Be clear that you are trying
to improve things.
The new year is also a good time to sit down together and look at the year ahead
and make some plans. Maybe you know you want to take your child to visit relatives
in July or perhaps he knows he will be traveling for business in March. Talk
about arrangements for these situations. You should also discuss how your child
is doing. Maybe your son is interested in baseball, so signing up for Little
League may be the way to go. Hiring a tutor might be something to consider if
your child is struggling in math. Perhaps your daughter is ready to think about
college – talk about who will take her on college visits and how you can
both manage the costs of education. In short, take some time to think about
and talk about your child together in a cooperative manner. It can help set
the tone for the entire year.