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Shared Parenting Business – 6 Top Tips to Support Shared Parenting After Separation
‘She doesn’t really want to share the care of the children; He just wants to have me!’
‘She doesn’t see what it’s doing to the kids; We no longer communicate…’
‘We were doing well sharing childcare until we re-partnered…’
Familiar Voices of Separated or Divorced Parents – As a family dispute resolution practitioner, I hear stories of bitter disputes over shared custody, child support and post-divorce parenting issues. Parents may feel their own pain and anger at each other, while the separation is still raw and recent. Or perhaps the parents had a relatively amicable parenting arrangement, which worked well for years until one parent started a new relationship. Suddenly all hell broke loose and the now estranged parents no longer seem to be ‘getting along’.
Reframe the image
If this image sounds all too familiar to you as an alienated parent, it may help if you reframe it. Instead of reeling from the idea of managing a personal relationship going sour, picture this: Your post-divorce parenting is a business, where you and your ex-partner share the managerial position.
Assets or liabilities on a balance sheet may not seem to have much in common with your child’s tantrums, or your teenager’s demands to go to those all-night parties. How can a business model help you deal with the emotional highs and lows of everyday life as an alienated parent? Lynn Grodzky, a business coach for therapists in private practice, talks about ‘nurturing’ your business like a parent. Well, I suggest you treat your parenting like a business. To do that you need to do some forward planning!
The importance of planning
It’s often said that when we fail to plan, we plan to fail — and in an economic downturn, businesses need to plan carefully to manage risk. Lynn Grodzki describes ‘risk reduction’ as the process of assessing hazards and then taking steps to reduce the loss or potential loss to your business. As an estranged parent, you can do the same and here’s how to set it up. (The following tips are based on advice for business owners by Lynn Grodzki.)
Six top tips to minimize your parenting risks after divorce
1. A written ‘business plan’ – Having a written parenting plan or agreement can help you co-manage the parenting business after separation. A business plan allows you to review your business practices and goals. A parenting plan allows you to track what you both agree to do as parents
2. Maintain a cash reserve for operating expenses – This is often easier said than done in tough economic times for both businesses and parents. However, in both cases it pays to save when you can. And just as ‘good will’ is important in business, it is also important in parenting. Business owners can put a dollar value on ‘goodwill’ and learn how important it is to long-term sustainability. As co-managers of parenting, both parents can build a shared reserve of ‘good fortune’ in how they co-parent. This can give you both some ‘mental capital’ to draw you through tough times (see tip 4).
3. Good Record Keeping – Many businesses have come to grief through poor record-keeping. Your co-parenting business will benefit from well-written records. Many parents find it useful to use a contact book that is passed around as children move from one family to another. (This avoids the risk of sending messages through your children. Remember, children are not the managers of this business!)
4. Contingency Planning: Averaging Your Profits and Losses Over Time – You may have heard of a business expense amortization or depreciation. It occurs when the value of a tangible or intangible asset is averaged or written down over a period of time. As a co-parenting director, you and other parents may have many years of co-parenting ahead of you, until your children are independent adults. It takes stamina to sit through the discomfort of hard times, when you can feel like you’re ‘trading’ in a hostile environment. It is worth remembering that times can and will change.
5. Self-care when the business depends on you – Co-parenting businesses depend on each parent’s ability to devote time and energy to their responsibilities. To do this, and to take care of others, you must take care of yourself. A healthy diet, appropriate exercise, adequate sleep, and keeping in touch with your doctor for regular check-ups as needed; These steps will help you manage the risks of ill health
6. Keep your insurance – Some business partners maintain ‘key person’ life insurance for each other, in case the loss of one business partner could affect the financial security of the business. You can see your ability to collaborate as a parent as ‘insurance’ for your business. The more effectively you can co-parent, the lower the risk of your co-parenting business going out of business.
Of course, you should also seek legal and financial advice about your individual circumstances as needed. However, these business tips can help you keep your co-parent’s business afloat during troubled times and protect your children from conflict between their parents.
How to make these tips work for you!
*Family Dispute Resolution is a mediation process that can help you and the other parent talk about your parenting issues and come to a written parenting agreement. A family dispute resolution practitioner can help you both identify issues and focus on your children’s best interests.
*A parenting agreement may include issues such as time spent by each parent with the children; communication transport system; provision of school holidays; Special days such as Christmas, Easter and other significant family or religious occasions.
*Email and text messages are useful as written records. If you make verbal arrangements with the other parent, confirm with them with a polite text message or email, just as you would in a business setting. This helps avoid all those costly last minute misunderstandings.
* ‘Write down’ some emotional costs over time. If you can access all the ‘undifferentiated assets’ of co-parenting over the next five years, as your child grows, your parent’s balance sheet can show a gain for your children over time. Try keeping a journal, or use the expressive writing exercises described by Dr. James W. Pennebaker in his book Opening Up: The Healing Power of Emotion.
*Self-care: Enroll in a new activity group, or take an adult education class. ‘Down time’ from parenting can replenish your spirit and give you more energy. If you feel depressed, anxious, or angry, talk to your doctor, who may recommend counseling or other help, such as medication.
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