Shared physical custody seems to be getting more and more popular these days. And why not?? Parents want to spend time with their children and children want to spend time with their parents. However, it can be harder then it looks. Having shared physical custody means having to realistically deal with your ex-spouse on a more regular basis and you need to get a long when having that contact with one another. If there is constant conflict between parents that share physical custody, the kids will start to pick up on that and use it to their advantage to divide and conquer you and your ex-spouse. Do not, under any circumstances, let them do this! Even though you and your ex-spouse are not married and living in the same household together, you still need to show a united front for your children. Without that, shared physical custody may still occur, but there will be constant conflict about what the other parent should/shouldn’t/did/didn’t do – and your kids will feed right into this.
Many times, I hear parents say that their kids tell them their mom or dad is mean to them and they don’t want to live with them anymore. The parent then rushes to an attorney believing that they have the golden ticket to receive primary physical custody. However, this rarely will do anything unless there is proof that the kids are in some type of danger or the other parent is neglecting them in some way. What parents do not realize is that kids believe their parent wants to hear bad stuff about the other parent, and they oblige even if the parent does not ask their kids anything. The kids feed off of the negative energy and the fact that they know you are fighting with one another (especially the older ones). Every parent must be very conscious of NOT talking negatively of the other parent when their kids can hear them – even if they are not in the same room! Kids are always seeking their parents approval, and if that occurs when they say something bad about their mom or dad, they will continue to do that. Putting your kids in this situation makes them afraid to let you know that they love their mom or dad and, in fact, you should be fostering that affection for your ex-spouse, regardless of the issues between the two of you (obviously assuming violence towards you or the kids did not occur).
Even if you and your ex-spouse do not share physical custody of the minor children, working together will allow your children to grow into healthy productive adults. Of course you are angry at your spouse. Of course you feel wronged in some way. Do not project those feelings on to your children. Allow your children to develop a relationship with their other parent without interference from you. You believe you are protecting your child from the hurt their dad or mom caused you, but in fact, you are hurting your children.
If you believe you need outside help to start working with your ex-spouse, try co-parenting counseling. It will start a conversation between the two of you in a controlled atmosphere that will hopefully be the beginning of being able to work together. Or, possibly, obtain individual therapy for yourself to start to work through some of the hurt you feel from your marriage breaking up. Helping yourself will help your kids also and the benefits will be great if you and your ex-spouse can work together.