The term “best interest of the kids” is thrown around a lot. The decisions you make are decisions you believe are in the best interests of your kids. Generally speaking, your co-parent believes they have the best interests of the kids in mind, too. The Courts will tell you that they are working in the kid’s best interests, too. So what exactly are the kid’s best interests?
In my experience, there’s more than one right answer to find what’s in the best interest of the kids. When negotiating to figure out what’s in your kid’s best interests, here are some tips:
Think long term. Will this decision affect them for many years to come? If so, how do you imagine it will?
Put yourself in their shoes. Would you be ok with the decision being made? How would you be affected by it?
Kids need both of their parents, will this decision allow for both parents to be involved? (I understand that sometimes parents live in different states and that some parents simply aren’t involved in their children’s lives. Outside of those cases, when you have 2 parents who want to be involved in their kids lives, this is an important question.)
Are you negotiating for your solution because it’s what’s best for the kids or because it’s what’s best for you? I realize this is a harsh question, but so many parents are worried about losing “their” time or “their” place that they don’t consider the big picture. While it is time you have with your children, please know that it's the children's time and it's not only normal, but healthy for them to want to be flexible.
Are your kids being negotiated as if they were property or as if they are real human beings? As my kids have gotten older, they’re able to say that when it comes to one-time changes in the schedule, they can feel like property when they hear negotiations. Most recently, my oldest daughter planned for a group project in school to be completed over her Dad’s weekend. She asked first to make sure it would work for him, he confirmed (more than once). Her Stepmom made plans taking them out of town a couple of days before the weekend and the group project plans couldn’t be changed. This meant my oldest daughter would either have to stay with me for the weekend, would have to fail the project and go with her Dad and Stepmom, or Dad and Stepmom would have to rearrange their plans so they could accommodate the school project. Dad and Stepmom fought to make my daughter go with them telling her that they didn’t want to miss out on “their time” with them and that failing the project wouldn’t be so bad. Dad and Stepmom used it as a negotiation tool to take vacation during a time that’s outside the court order. They told my daughter this. She felt like a piece of property. I would have, too. In the end, she stayed with me and I was willing to ensure that this happened regardless of whether or not they agreed. Their vacation? Co-parenting requires flexibility and I’m always happy to come up with solutions that work for everyone.
Your child’s adolescence is a fraction of their life. The way you handle it will set the stage for your relationship with them later in life. Trust me on this. I’ve interviewed adult children of divorce. I have almost adult children of divorce. The flexibility you show, your willingness to work with your co-parent, and how often you put your kid’s needs ahead of “your time” is something they notice. It will impact your relationship with them as adults.
How do you decide what’s in the best interest of your kids? Comment below and let everyone know.
When you decide on what your children need, it's time to communicate that effectively. Get all the tips and tools to do that in the co-parenting after divorce videos. Click on the button below to learn more.