Navigating two homes isn’t always easy for children. What they may be used to in your home may not always be the same in the other house. While you cannot control your co-parent, there are times when the children may share stories of concern.
So, when do you assess further with your co-parent?
Here are concerns that should not be swept under the rug:
If you notice your children are coming back to your home in soiled clothing or their hair hasn’t been washed in days, it may be time to bring this up with your co-parent. Children deserve to have their own set of clean clothing in both homes as well as a parent who ensures proper bathing and teeth brushing.
If your kids are attending school and appear to be neglected, the school will most likely bring this to your awareness. Also, if your co-parent is unable properly care for the children after this has been addressed, then you may want to speak with a third-party about neglect.
Health comes in many forms. From doctor appointments, emotional health, physical health and nutrition are some of the major health concerns that we seek with our clients. It may be that one parent was consistently responsible for all of the medical appointments and it still remains that way. Or, now one parent is being asked to help with these medical appointments and is failing to meet the needs of the children. Either way, it is best to only schedule doctor appointments during your parenting time if you know your co-parent is going to make it an issue about taking them. Putting the children’s needs first and foremost is a priority for their health.
When it comes to emotional health we recommend the children are allowed to have access to therapists or coaches at their request. Some challenging personalities will prevent their children from seeing mental health professionals out of fear of what the children will say. We recommend getting your children help regardless and making this a part of your parenting plan. A change in a children’s mood, behaviors, or demeanor is the first sign they may not being doing well and need a little extra help.
*Also note, the family court system typically fails to recognize emotional and psychological abuse and if you need assistance in this area to help your children we recommend seeking a coach like ourselves to navigate these waters. Sometimes a case needs to strategically be built over time before seeking legal counsel.
Nutrition seems to come a lot especially when one parent is all about whole foods that are healthy and the other hasn’t cooked a day in their life and feeds the child fast food. While no parent is perfect and sometimes time is limited, finding a balance with your co-parent will be wise. Also, if they need ideas for cooking finding easy kid recipes may help them out.
3. Unsafe environments
Did your kids come home and say they were left with a babysitter they didn’t know? Or, did they witness drinking or violence in your co-parent’s home? These are some red flags that cannot be ignored. Children need safety at all times to thrive. A child witnessing or enduring these events can be severely traumatized as if they were experiencing the abuse themselves.
Both co-parents should agree on who is allowed to babysit or pick the children up from school to make sure the child feels safe, and in the case of an emergency either parent knows where the child is.
If your co-parent appears to be unstable and shows an inability to parent in the past or on a regular basis, you will need to document these incidents and ask them to seek help or hire a third-party to mediate until they are stable to parent again.
4. Witness or engage in inappropriate activities
If your child expresses they are allowed to watch inappropriate television shows and movies for their age this could cause them mental distress. Children are not meant to watch or engage in activities that aren't appropriate for their age. This can lead to nightmares, engaging in activities they aren’t ready for, or finding themselves in sticky situations.
Children are also not supposed to do adult activities like caring for younger children, being an emotional support system for the parents, taking over for a parent like making their coffee or doing the family’s laundry. Parentification is often heightened in divorced families and can’t cause children lots of setbacks later on in life within their relationships with others. Often healthy boundaries need to be implemented to protect the innocence of children. The only thing they need to worry about is schoolwork and basic age-appropriate activities and responsibilities.
5. Being withheld for activities or normal routine
When your child is with your co-parent do they often keep them home from school? Do they withhold them from having a social life or attending their extracurricular activities? If your co-parent isn’t maintaining the children’s well-being and normal routine, this is a major concern for your child’s development. Most parenting plans outline these sorts of activities and responsibilities for each co-parent. If you don’t have a parenting plan, click here.