Parenting New Year’s resolutions after a divorce

Joint parenting is often challenging, no matter how well the parents get along. A few small changes can create positive results.

The beginning of a new year can inspire change for almost everyone in Massachusetts and elsewhere. It can also be a great time to start out on the right foot for parents who are newly divorced, or to make some changes that can help to make co-parenting more effective. Here are some tips that parents may want to consider implementing over the next few weeks.

Helping children move past the pain of a divorce

Divorce is difficult on everyone involved, but can be especially painful for children. Parents who are just beginning the process are likely to experience a range of unpleasant emotions and behaviors in their children. While it is normal for children to have many questions during this time and even to act out, the way parents react can make a big difference in their young ones' healing. According to Parents, it is important that children understand the divorce is not their fault and that they are still loved by both parents, whether they are living under the same roof or not.

Children should be allowed and encouraged to share their feelings about the divorce. Questions should be answered honestly and age-appropriately. For example, younger children may only need to be told that the reason for the divorce was that Mom and Dad are not getting along as well as they used to, and the family might be happier if they lived apart. Older children should be able to understand more difficult concepts, but they should not be drawn into the conflict. It can also help to talk to children about what will happen in the coming weeks, regarding where they will live and how shared parenting will work.

Re-establishing routines and rules

Whether parents have just split up or have been divorced for some time, joint parenting can be a challenge. If there are frequent arguments or conflicts over different parenting styles, drop-off times and other shared custody concerns, this may be a time to re-evaluate parenting goals. Children do better when there are consistent rules and schedules, according to Psychology Today. Even if both parents have different ways of parenting in their respective homes, it can give children a sense of security if, for example, Mom always sticks to her bedtime rules if Dad's rules are different.

Reviewing child support

The financial costs of raising a child can be hard on the parent with more custodial time, or the one who makes less money, which is why child support laws exist. However, a child support order does not have to be set in stone. There are many reasons a child support change - or modification - may be made, which include the following:

• The paying parent experiencing an income change, such as unemployment

• A change in where the children live or how much time they spend with either parent

• The cost of health insurance changing for the paying parent

According to the Massachusetts Judicial Branch, a parent wishing to change a child support order would need to file a request with the court that originally set the order.

It is not always easy to parent smoothly after a divorce. Committing to making positive changes, either alone or with the other parent, can be beneficial for children and parents alike. An experienced Massachusetts family law attorney may be able to answer questions about child custody, support and other divorce matters.