Coparenting, divorce and exams. As exam time fast approaches, so can the stress levels increase for teenagers and their parents, especially through separation, divorce and co-parenting through it. Unless you have a teenager who is diligent, independently focused and time-aware, who creates their own exam revision timetable and sticks to it (so you don’t have to)… you may well decide now is a time where working together as separating, divorcing and existing co-parents is doubly important.
Any co-parenting in an ideal world is essential, especially through the tougher times for your kids – like over exams or going through a divorce. If you are about to go through a divorce and your teenager has exams approaching Voices in the Middle is a site I recommend, with lots of useful resources to support families with teenagers.
So co-parenting, divorce and exams, and why it’s good to have a clear and agreed shared supportive path through the revision and exam months. Every child or teenager knows when there is ‘wriggle’ room if there are different policies in two homes. Coming back to what is important for your children and teenagers is something you BOTH can get clear on.
This morning my Ex and I had a meeting at the school about future exams, revision requirements and how best we could support our teenager who is about to take GCSEs. We both come from different ways of thinking (creatively and analytically – polar bear grrr opposites!). We realised that to find the middle ground – to be properly and usefully supportive for our teenager, we needed to come up with a plan that we could both agree on. Claiming different revision timings and homework rules in each parent’s house is not conducive to teenagers focus. I hear from clients, the focus ‘slippage’ happens easily, especially when there is co-parenting stress involved. Teenagers need to know their co-parents have an organised, kind and firm foundation on which they are supported by and to have as little distraction and concerns as possible.
And let’s be brutally honest here, there really is no benefit after your teenager or children have finished their exams, achieved the maybe not such good results to then blame each other for the effect your split has had on your kids. You need to do the work as co-parents throughout the time your kids are going through this. Think mini co-parenting plan within the whole co-parenting scheme. Get better (even if it is hard, challenging and difficult) at sitting and constructively talking to your kid’s teachers together. Leave your ego at the door about who has been or is wrong or right – it is about your kids, not you. This is their future, what you can do is be there for them through tough times, work on the good and possibilities of a brighter future for them rather than focus on the past.
I talked this week on the Divorce Goddess® Podcast about the benefits of bringing calmness to your day with mindful practices and tools that I teach. Helpful tools for preparing yourself to feel calmer so you are able to discuss important issues like exam timetables and revision realities with your teenager and your Ex, and how you both can support your teenagers going forward.
Here are my tips for finding that space together as Ex’s and co-parents to support your teenagers over the exam season:
1. Both commit and set the intention that this time for your teenager is important and that whatever has gone before is left in the past, and it is now about your teenager and their future.
2. Agree to each individually ask your teenager whether they are happy you both as co-parents commit to supporting them and together. AND that you each will be there for them without anger, past hurts and with an understanding that it is about THEM and not YOU.
3. Set aside time for you and your Ex to talk to each other (if you can) about what you both can bring to the exam ‘support table’ in terms of strengths. Recognise, understand and respect in advance that you both can help.
4. Accept that one of you may be more organised and could help out more with exam timetables and planning, whilst the other may be better at the emotional, mental and healthy options of support like food, exercise, fresh air nurturing also as important.
5. Check-in with and if possible talk to each other – via email if it is easier. Make an appointment at your teenager’s school or college if you need to and talk to their tutor, ask how you both can best support your teenager. Try not to worry about judgement, let that go, this is not about what anyone else thinks of your life this is about your teenager.
6. Keep your teenager in the loop with conversations, let them know you are collaborating together, that you are both there for them and that they matter.
Use this as an opportunity to be bigger than angry, resentful divorcees, try to leave your egos at the door. This is about the love for your shared child from a time when they were created out of love, (not out of the anger that still may OR may not exist). If you can, show and demonstrate to your teenagers that out of unpleasant and challenging life events can come good positive and life-changing stuff because they matter.
And if all of this is still difficult, painful or your Ex refuses to talk and you need some help, there are co-parenting apps available to help make co-parenting easier.
And finally… trust in the possibility that you can both truly be adults and show up for your kids when they most need BOTH your help.