There has been a decline in the global divorce rate, but that’s mostly due to the fact that there has been a decline in marriages. What we’ve found in our online therapist sessions is that many couples now opt for co-habitation which comes with its own challenges and legal restrictions (please refer to our previous blog regarding the subject here). Whether a couple decides to get married or not, a serious long-term relationship often ends up with kids. So what happens when it all ends? We live in a time where the world is small, opportunities numerous and families are incredibly diverse. It would be absolutely absurd for both parents to expect the other to remain within a 10 mile radius of the other for the next 18 years. Especially if one of the parties are originally from another country. So is it possible for us to raise kids in two different countries?
Absolutely! Nothing is impossible if all parties are willing to work together to serve the best interest of the children. And parents sharing custody of children across oceans is much more common than people probably think. And the rules for navigating this kind of parenting arrangement is pretty much the same as any other separation situation where kids are involved:
Halt the “Boo-hoo” Moments
We get it. He said you were fat every day you were together. She called you lazy for years. You both called each other “stupid” on a daily basis. Whatever. Time to put those petty things to bed. If you’re still feeling hurt and angry about things said and done to you, make an appointment with an online therapist in order to work through these moments constructively. And whatever you do; NEVER mention any of this to your child(ren).
Don’t play telephone
You were grown-up enough to make another human being, so now you need to be adult enough to raise one. So Dad likes Take Away’s and you only eat organic seaweed? Or Mom takes the kids to zoos whilst Dad protests for PETA. If mom and dad agreed upon many fundamental things, they would still be together. Ask yourselves these two questions when it comes to any action from your ex which you don’t agree with:
- Does it make the kids happy?
- Does it hurt the kids in any way?
In these cases it’s not necessary to make the kids feel guilty for enjoying something with the other parent that goes against some of your personal beliefs. And if you have an issue with something the other parent did or said, never, ever let them know about your disappointment or anger via the kids. They are not your personal post-relationship messengers. 4 Year old Ginger does not have to tell Daddy that hunting is done by the most evil people on this planet, and 7 Year old Peter does not have to tell Mommy that Corn Flakes is not a real breakfast. Stick to the things that really bother you and speak to your ex-partner directly.
Learn the art of communication
Many ex partners complain about their communication with each other post-breakup. And it’s understandable. After a break-up there are many emotions involved and people generally don’t like each other much. This is where logic needs to reign over the heart. We’re sure you don’t like or have a personal relationship with everybody you work with, yet your communication with them remain professional and courteous. Practice the same principle with your ex, even if it’s just during the initial aftermath where feelings are at a high.
Keep communication kid-centric
Would you still have had any conversations with each other if it wasn’t for the kids (and drunk dialling is not a conversation)? So, keep conversations to the basics regarding the kids. Pick-up, drop-off, vacation dates etc. There’s no need to dissect the relationship if one of the kids forgot a shoe.
Co-parenting means making decisions together
You don’t have to check in with your spouse every time you’re making a basic decision like what to eat, but if you want to have any chance at successfully co-parenting with each other, than you need to have an open dialogue about the following topics; financial issues, medical needs, education. You can’t enrol the kids in a school without having the conversation with your ex and then just request maintenance money to pay for it. You also can’t just notify the ex of a surgery that the other might deem not necessary. And if each are already paying for the basic needs of the kids in their own homes, one parent can’t suddenly request a clothing allowance. These are things that need to be discussed between the two parents. If you are unsure of even how to start such discussions with your ex, an online therapist will be able to assist. At Personal Online Therapy your first consultation with an online therapist is completely free!
Kids are so sensitive to the feelings of a parent. And can you even imagine what has to be going through their mind during a time where they love two people who keep signalling to them to dislike the other? Parents don’t need to say a word to make it very clear to children what they feel towards the other parent. When picking up the kids for a visit make it an exciting time. Don’t hang on to your child when saying goodbye as if they’ll never see the light of day again if they go to the other parent. Feelings of divided loyalty is a huge problem with kids during separations/divorces. It’s your job as a parent to make them feel love, safe and secure with BOTH parents.
So you’ve got these down pat and one parent just got a great opportunity in another country. Is it wise to raise kids cross-country? Well, if you do it right, it actually has quite a few benefits:
It takes a village
You don’t really know how much your family and friends matter as a support system ‘till you’re in another country. And this is where you often have to put your pride away and ask for help. But this is a wonderful lesson for children to learn; that it’s ok to accept help from those around us.
Kids are more adaptable than you can ever imagine
Whilst we’re still wiping a tear for all the friends being left behind whilst staring out of the airplane window, the kids are already making friends with the family sitting next to them. We as adults (who are not so adaptable any more) often project our own feelings on to our kids. And even though moving to another country is by no means a small feat, it’s definitely much easier for them than we give them credit for.
Traveling expands the mind
When people talk about having their horizons broaden, it’s not always physical. Traveling exposes us to different cultures, different people and different ways of thinking. Teaching children that there are people who think differently to what we’re used to or might even agree with helps them with acceptance and opening their minds to other perspectives and possibilities.
It’s ok to be the “fool” sometimes
We all make mistakes. And nowhere in the world is it more apparent than trying to ask someone for the toilet in a foreign language and ending up asking them for a beetroot. Experiences in a foreign country teaches kids that there is humour in humility.
You need to grab opportunity with both hands when it comes knocking
This might be the most valuable lesson to teach your children and you can only teach this one by acting on your own opportunities when they come knocking. Some opportunities are once in a lifetime opportunities and sadly we never know that ‘till it’s too late. We need to teach our kids to make wise decisions whilst weighing risks, but to also grab on to opportunities that come their way. Saying “yes” to that accounting job in Barcelona might be the scariest thing you’ve ever done, but it might also end up being the best thing that’s ever happened to you and your family – grab every opportunity and teach your kids to do the same.
So how do you make it work?
Keep to the parental responsibility
Having kids in another country doesn’t make the parent not permanently staying with them any less responsible. The co-parenting points mentioned earlier should be strictly adhered to and respected.
Help with homework
There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t still be involved in this daily part of their lives – especially if you’re working for yourself or working flexi-hours. Modern technology has made it possible for us to all be only one face-call away via mobile, Zoom, Skype, you name it.
Once again technology comes to the rescue. Ensure that you are always reachable. Life doesn’t keep office hours and the kids might need to talk to you at odd times (especially if they are in a different time zone). Sticking to your mobile phone might never have been this applicable.
If you want your modern-day kids to get really excited you should challenge them to a few online games. This is also easy to do via numerous platforms.
Are you still unsure whether this is the right move for you and your family? Or are you trying to come up with a game plan to make this situation work for everyone involved? Then please feel free to book one of our online therapist sessions via firstname.lastname@example.org. You always start with a free consultation! Or complete the form below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.