Kids & Company Blog

Navigating the Rollercoaster: A Parent’s Guide to Divorce & Co-Parenting

This blog was written by our guest author Shivani Sharda, from Giving Tree Family Law. Giving Tree Family Law is geared towards collaborative family law and mediation (as opposed to contentious litigation), placing children’s interests as a priority in all decisions. This blog addresses divorce and separation,and what it means for young children. It addresses the emotional aspects while also explaining custody arrangements, visitation schedules & co-parenting strategies that prioritize the well-being of young children. Learn more about Giving Tree Family Law, and their services here.

Hello there, fellow parents! Let's take a deep dive into something that may prove itself inevitable, frightening and complex – divorce and separation. The emotional toll that this life-changing milestone brings can feel overwhelming, and not just for you, but for your children as well, which is why your co-parenting approach is key to keeping your children afloat. 

First, let’s take a moment to understand what divorce means for a child. Picture your child's world as a cozy little bubble where mom and dad are the main characters, and everything is predictable and safe. Suddenly, that bubble that represents certainty and familiarity gets popped, and things begin to feel scary, new and uncomfortable. It's like being on a rollercoaster without knowing when the next twist or turn is coming.

So how can you help navigate them through this journey into uncharted territory?

Communication is Key: 

Children are resilient, but they're also incredibly perceptive. They can pick up on tension quicker than you can say "custody agreement." So, it's important to be open and honest with them about what's happening – in a way that they can understand, of course. Reassure them that even though things are changing, mom and dad still love them to the moon and back, and that's never going to change. Don’t be afraid to broach the subject and answer the difficult questions posed by your child. If you feel comfortable, treat them like little adults – give them enough information so that they know you’re not dismissing their intelligence by virtue of being a child (children are far more intuitive and smarter than we give them credit for) but not too much as to overwhelm them with the reality of the situation to the point where their young brains and unsophisticated coping mechanisms can’t yet handle. Reassurance is key here, so keep repeating to them over and over again that they are loved and cared for by both parents (remember, children learn through repetition). 


Co-Parenting Logistics and Schedules: 

Let's talk logistics stemming from custody arrangements and visitation rights. Sometimes it's like trying to solve a Rubik's cube while blindfolded, am I right? The key to success here is putting your child's needs first. They should be the epicenter of your decision-making and prioritization. If both you and your ex-spouse genuinely take this approach, it will greatly de-escalate tension between the two of you, if there is any, and help you to work collaboratively for the benefit of your children. Sure, it might mean sacrificing your Saturday mornings for the sake of consistency, but trust the process, it's worth it in the long run, and your child will thrive on it. If your child’s best interests come first, your ego will come second, and if your ego is taking the backseat, then you can accomplish a lot more with your ex-spouse by not being combative, possessive of your child and needing to be “right” all the time. Don’t be afraid to accommodate your ex-spouse’s schedule from time to time – it does not mean you’ve “lost the fight” and he/she “wins” – it simply means you’re being grounded and a good parent to your child because their wellbeing outweighs our ego. Which brings us to our next point. 


Be a partner to your ex-partner. 

Co-parenting is where the real magic happens. It's like being part of a superhero duo, except instead of fighting crime, you're tackling bedtime routines at two different households. Communication is key here. Keep the lines of communication open with your ex-partner, and remember – it's not about winning or losing, it's about finding common ground for the sake of your children. Remember that whilst you may not be romantic partners any longer, you are still partners in parenting, and thus in life. Even though some individuals become difficult to deal with as part of divorce or separation, try to view them as an ally in your parenting journey, not as an enemy that must be fought and triumphed over. This may sound rosy and all but our attitudes shape our behaviours, and if you’re able to shift your mindset to one that embodies more collaboration, understanding and “give”, then you may begin to experience tangible and positive momentum in your co-parenting journey…and your children will notice it too. 


Self-care is important as a newly single parent: 

Let's not forget about self-care, because you can't pour from an empty cup. Take the analogy of the airplane safety procedures – put the mask on first before you put it on your child. This does not mean being selfish (nor does it give you the right to be). If your mind and body are well, you will be in a much better mental and physical capacity to take better care of your children. It’s ok to take some time for yourself, whether it's hitting the gym, indulging in a bubble bath or seeing a therapist – whatever it may mean for you to become “zen”. Your mental and emotional well-being matter just as much as your child's, so don't neglect it and don’t feel guilty about it. You’ll be a better parent to your child and a better co-parent to your ex-spouse. 


In the end, there is no easy formula to divorce and separation – every situation is different, every individual involved is different and there is no winner or loser so long as your child comes first. Prioritize them, be patient, be loving, be understanding, be kind and try to be a good parenting partner to your ex-spouse (they are human too, and have flaws….just like you).

About Giving Tree Family Law:

Giving Tree Family Law is a boutique, women-led, Toronto family law practice that has built expertise in unbundled and limited scope engagements, which drastically lower the cost of the legal process. This provides the client with as much control over the process as they would like, with the lawyer acting as a ‘coach’ in the background. Giving Tree Family Law can handle the entire case for you or only various aspects - entirely up to you!  


About the Author:

Shivani Sharda, Family Lawyer, Giving Tree Family Law

Before joining the Giving Tree Family Law, Shivani spent nearly two decades in public service, advocating for disadvantaged individuals grappling with complex legal issues. Shivani represents and advises clients on all aspects of family law issues that arise from divorce and separation.  This includes decision-making responsibility (formally custody) and parenting time (formally access), child and spousal support, property division, separation agreements, marriage contracts and cohabitation agreements. Shivani has experience advocating for clients through negotiation, mediation and court.  She is skilled at reaching resolutions through creative solutions. She holds memberships in the Ontario Bar Association (Family Section), the South Asian Bar Association and the Advocates Society.

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