Journaling is beneficial in so many ways. It keeps you goal-oriented, allows you to notice and celebrate your victories, reduces stress, inspires creativity, improves communication skills, strengthens memory, and can boost self-confidence.
In a life-altering event like a divorce, journaling is more than a “nice to have.” And, it’s essential for more than your mental well-being.
Journaling the interactions between you and your co-parent, you and your kids, and your co-parent and kids will help you objectively see helpful or potentially unhealthy patterns in these interpersonal relationships. Keeping timely documentation allows you to formulate solutions in your children’s best interests.
Before we break down the “how” and “what” of journaling, rest assured that at the end, we’ll give you the best tip yet…how to make journaling easy to do and easy to manage.
We recommend writing at least once a day, if not more. This type of consistency makes your journal entries more reliable and precise. If you write less often, your journaling efforts are less effective. You risk forgetting details, leaving out important information, or inaccurately representing something.
No one does everything right. Especially not your ex. Also, very rarely does someone do everything wrong, either. You and your co-parent will have lots of disagreements, but don’t let that prejudice influence your writing.
Emotional journal entries paint an unfair picture and are less trustworthy in the legal system. So, try to catch yourself before writing something demeaning about the other parent. Play devil’s (or should we say ‘legal’) advocate with yourself when writing negatively about your co-parent. If a mediator, attorney, or judge could pick it apart to find that it lacks truth, then it probably doesn’t belong in your journal. Find another way to say it.
For example, if your co-parent has a habit of dropping your child off late during custody exchanges, note the time agreed upon for drop-off and the actual arrival time as opposed to saying something like, “…late again!”
Log exchanges with your co-parent. Note whether these happened in person, by phone, or by text. Include the date, time, duration, and a conversation summary.
**Note: Divorce experts agree that the best way to communicate with your co-parent right after a divorce, or if emotions are still high between you two, is to avoid communicating in person or by phone. Stick with written exchanges.**
You, your co-parent, or any future legal counsel will, naturally, want to know as much as possible about your child and their welfare. Write about doctor and dentist appointments, any health and wellness notes from these visits, their school schedule, grades, positive and negative behaviors, after-school and weekend activities, and friendships.
Indicate changes in school conduct, achievements, and grades on tests, progress reports, and report cards. Jot down behavioral issues brought to you by their teachers or school counselors. Include successes, too. You, your co-parent, health professionals, and legal team can use this information to determine living situations and custody arrangements in the child’s best interest.
Impartially write down instances when your co-parent does or does not hold to their commitments. Give credit when it’s due for on-time pickups, drop-offs, and keeping their word for other child-rearing responsibilities. Factually write down when commitments were promised but not adhered to without demeaning the co-parent.
Include ways you interact with your child that document your role as a caregiver and role model in their lives. Parental duties like teaching them to do chores, drive, or cook are a few examples. Helping them with their homework, driving them to activities and appointments, and paying for their privilege to attend extracurriculars and events are also good to include.
Note your child’s behaviors and words when they pertain to you or the co-parent. Please don’t force them to talk about your ex with you. But jot down their actions and direct quotes when they do. Use behaviors to describe them instead of feelings. For example, say, “Paul cried for the first 15 minutes when he got home from his dad’s,” instead of “Paul was moody and emotional.”
As with all of your journal writing, ensure that you are painting an accurate picture of events. Write down the good stuff, too, such as “Paul was so excited to visit his dad.” or “He loved his Christmas gift from dad and his new girlfriend.”
Parenting duties are endless. On top of it all, you’re being asked to keep a co-parenting journal?!
That may sound impossible, but technology makes it simpler. With software on your side, the documentation process is much easier. Not only is it uncomplicated, but sorting through the information is almost effortless, too.
Research co-parenting apps for Android and iPhones and read our blog here to get started. There are helpful co-parenting apps for everything from communicating more amicably to handily sharing expenses.
Having an app at your fingertips makes journaling second nature. Your entries easily travel with you wherever you go, and they’re easier to sort through when you need to look back on something. They are also accepted at legal proceedings and can help you, your co-parent, and legal teams make decisions that are in your child’s best interests.