but Together After the Divorce
By Brette Sember
When we talk about families, togetherness is one of the core concepts
mentioned as key a happy and healthy family. Togetherness with your
child is probably something you're pretty tuned into. But what about
togetherness with your ex if you're divorce? If you recoiled at that,
your reaction is common. However, doing things together as a family
after the divorce can be a great way to give your child a sense of
stability and to improve relations with your ex.
You and your ex are always going to be parents together and unless
you're not able to be civil to each other at all, doing things together
with your child reinforces that you are both still parenting together
and that your child is still part of a family. Just because you're
divorced doesn't mean you can't sit together at a table or in a
movie theater once in a while. Doing things with your child also
gives you a sense of partnership and helps you both remember that
you do need to work as a team.
many people, it is just unnatural to go from living in the same
house (no matter how poorly you got along) to suddenly never being
all together again. It's a real shock to everyone's systems, and
just because you're divorced does not mean you can't continue to
enjoy your child together.
to Make It Work
I'm not suggesting you and your ex having a standing Saturday afternoon
at the movies date with your child. You don't need to do this every
week or every month. However, once in a while, spending some time
as a family can be a healing and peacemaking step.
two keys to making this work are to start small and stay busy, at
least in the beginning. Having your ex come by for cake and presents
for an hour on your child's birthday or meeting at the park for
half an hour are perfect examples. Plan short periods of time, so
that you don't have time to get sick of each other and your pleasant
smiles don't fade. Have a plan of action so that you've got something
to do and aren't just sitting there.
If you do plan to do something together as a family, make sure you
both understand from the get-go that this will not be the time or
place to talk about child support, the visitation schedule, or any
other issues between you. This time is meant to be a benefit to
your child and that won't happen if it turns into a negotiation
Be Afraid to Think Big
If short, busy activities go well, you might want to consider expanding
your time together. There are some divorced families who even take
trips together. The key is understanding what your limitations are
and what you're comfortable with and what you're not. I know one
divorced family where the father comes and spends the night on Christmas
Eve every year at the mother's house. This arrangement is comfortable
for them. For years they planned to take their son to Disney World
together, but finally realized that was more time than they could
comfortably spend together. They recognized their limitations and
didn't push it.
If you or your ex has remarried, doing things together as stepfamilies
is another way to enhance your child's sense of family. You may
not have any connection to your ex's new spouse or stepchildren,
but your child does, and doing things together can actually help
tear down resentments that sometimes build against stepfamilies.
Sember is a former attorney and author of many books, including
How to Parent with Your Ex, The Divorce Organizer & Planner,
and No-Fight Divorce. Her web site is www.BretteSember.com.