This past October, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner divorced after having been separated since June 2015. The couple were married for 10 years and have three children. Affleck and Garner both discussed in the press that their children are their priority and they planned to co-parent together.
They illustrated this commitment just a few weeks after their divorce was finalized by attending a World Series Game together with their children.
The ability to put aside marital differences and spend time together as a family is an admirable goal for divorced parents. Lauren Lake, family lawyer, author and star of the show "Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court" says, “Parents need to love their kids more than they hate each other. The greatest gifts divorced parents can give to their kids is to let them know that while the marriage may not have worked out, family is forever. “
Spend time together
Co-parenting can be difficult. For it to work, parents have to put aside their differences and focus on putting the children’s needs first. If possible, try to continue to spend time together as a family.
“If parents can get along, plan some events where the whole family be together such as birthdays, graduations or even vacations," says Lake. "Maybe have Christmas breakfast all together before the children go with his mother or father for the rest of the day.”
Kids are happy when they don’t have to choose or worry that they are leaving one of their parents out.
Don’t be concerned that spending too much time together as a family will confuse your child.
“Explain to your children that you are not getting back together but we both love you and both want to be the best parents we can be,” says Lake
Don’t be needy
Encourage your children to enjoy the time they spend with their other parent. Don't make them feel bad or guilty for leaving you for the evening or weekend.
"Let them know you want them to have a good time," Lake says."Tell them you want to hear all about the fun they had when they return."
Try to do something for yourself while the kids are away like seeing friends for dinner or getting work done so that you are more available when they return.
Use the settlement as a guide
The divorce agreement is a guideline, but it works best if parents are able to communicate with one another and be flexible.
"Try to cooperate with your ex-spouse," Lake says. "For example, if it is your turn to have the kids, but you have to go out of town for work, ask your ex if they want to take the kids before hiring a sitter. If you can work together to resolve issues, this will ultimately benefit the kids."
Let go of the guilt
Most importantly, parents need to forgive themselves.
"Many parents blame themselves for ruining their children's lives by divorcing and destroying the family. But sometimes marriages don't work out and that's okay," Lake says. "Life is about the journey. The marriage may be over, but it's not a failure because it brought you both these beautiful children."