When children head off to college, your co-parenting arrangement is likely to change in the sense that the children have more say and independence in what they do. Also, you no longer have the ability to go to court to force a parenting plan modification, at least for that specific child.
Of course, there may be exceptions if the child happens to be younger than 18. For the most part, though, you are in for what could be some tricky paths to navigate. Here are some tips to help these college years go by more smoothly.
Respect your child’s decisions
With your children in college, you see them less. That in itself can be a huge adjustment and lead to feelings of guilt, especially if you saw your children less after your divorce. It is doubly hurtful if your children say something such as, “We’d like to spend winter break with [other parent].” It can be tempting to present arguments for why your children are choosing wrong or why the other parent does not deserve that time.
Look at the big picture instead. Yes, you do and will miss your children terribly. However, steamrolling over their decisions like they do not matter only serves to alienate your children from you in the long term. They could have many reasons for making the choices they did, reasons that are not necessarily a mark against you. Also, if you are helping to pay for your child’s schooling, avoid using that money to compel the children to do what you want. Again, alienation and resentment are the most likely results.
Use your freedom to everyone’s advantage
There is also the fact that you can have more freedom in a legal and emotional sense. For example, the old parenting plan may have urged you to let your co-parent know about your child’s parent-teacher conferences, games and other events. Your child being in college is a good time for you to set boundaries so that you are not always the one funneling information to the other parent.