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By: Angel Berbarie
It’s not always easy to co-parent after a divorce, but no matter what is going on between you and your ex, it’s important to put your children first. This means making sure your children are safe, comfortable, and not only adjusting to their new family dynamic, but thriving in it. To achieve this, you and your ex will need to work together to ensure your children maintain a close and loving relationship with both parents.
Co-parenting involves both parents playing a role in their children’s lives on a day-to-day basis. This is a much easier task if you and your ex were able to finalize your divorce by agreement and part amicably. Successful co-parenting leads to you both being active in your children’s lives, discussing their needs and making decisions together that are in your children’s best interest. While it may sometimes be difficult to work with your ex, it’s possible to develop a good co-parenting relationship. A good relationship will result in less stress when dealing with your ex, respect for what you each have to offer your children, and a more consistent and nurturing environment for your children in both your homes.
Even though your marriage is over, your family is not, so it’s important to act in your children’s best interest. Your relationship with your ex is a completely different one now, one that is not about either of you. It is about working together to co-parent to make sure your children’s needs are being met and that they are well-adjusted, healthy, and happy children.
After your marriage ends, it’s more important than ever that your children understand how much their parents care about them. They should know that they are more important than whatever ended your marriage. Parents who are cooperating with one another help their children:
Successful co-parenting involves putting your anger, hurt, or resentment aside in favor of your children’s well-being. This case be a difficult task, especially in the early days after a divorce, but working cooperatively is important and potentially the most vital part of co-parenting.
It’s okay, and even normal, to feel hurt and anger about the divorce, but you cannot share those feelings with your children. If you need to talk about your feelings, consider calling a friend, making an appointment with a therapist, or venting to your pet. If you don’t want to talk it out, work it out; exercise can be a healthy way to work through painful emotions. Your children should never be a sounding board for any negative feelings you have about your ex or the divorce.
Putting your hurt feelings aside for your children’s well-being doesn’t mean those feelings aren’t there. In fact, you may never fully resolve your pain, but it’s important that even as the children get older, they are shielded from issues between you and your ex. Children should not be used as messengers; this puts them in the center of your conflict, when they should be as far removed from this as possible. You also shouldn’t make negative comments about your ex in front of your children. Again, this puts them in the center of your issues and pressures them to choose between the two of you when your children deserve to have a healthy relationship with both parents.
Being focused, cooperative and respectful in your communications will lead to successful co-parenting. Good communication starts with a healthy mindset. Start with the assumption that you and your co-parent both want what’s best for your children and try not to assume negative inferences in communications you receive from your ex. If possible, discuss big decisions in person or on the phone, even if you later confirm what was discussed in writing to be sure you’re on the same page. If verbal discussions tend to lead to conflict, communicate in writing by text, email, or an online application available for co-parents. If you have any doubt about how your words could be construed negatively, don’t say them or hit send on that message. Consider how your comments could lead to conflict and potentially hurt your child and take a moment to consider another way of phrasing your thoughts so as not to invoke a negative reaction. If you find that you and your co-parent consistently end up in conflict-ridden communications, consider consulting with a parenting coach or mental health professional who may be able to help you improve communications with the other parent.
To keep you and your ex focused on effective and purposeful communication:
Commit to talking and meeting up consistently
Keep the conversations about the kids
Make requests, not demands
Practice techniques designed to help you relieve stress
Set a business-like tone
As a parent, there are plenty of decisions you and your ex will have to make for your children. Good communication and teamwork make the process easier for everyone involved. If you aim for consistency and geniality, the details should come more easily.
Having consistency in both homes, such as similar rules and expectations, avoids confusion for children and helps them thrive in both environments. The rules don’t have to be exactly the same, but you and your co-parent should have consistent guidelines on significant issues, such as for example, academic expectations, curfews, and off-limit activities. It can be very confusing for children if the rules and expectations are extremely lax with one parent and overly strict with their other parent. If possible, try to aim for a consistent schedule as well. Not everything can line up perfectly, but doing homework, mealtime, and bedtime at similar times can make the adjustment between homes easier on your children.
You should both be open to making big decisions as a team. To do so, you need to be honest about your preferences, straight to the point, and open to hearing their side. This includes deciding which parent is in charge of talking to medical professionals, keeping both of you involved in your kids’ class schedules and after-school activities, and setting a budget you can both stick to along with a record of shared expenses.
Disagreements over decisions for your children are inevitable, and it’s important to remain respectful toward your co-parent and keep the lines of communication open. Keeping the focus on making decisions that are in your children’s best interest and maintaining respect for your co-parent’s perspective can help you work through your differences. If you can’t agree after your best effort, consider turning to a professional, such as a therapist experienced in assisting divorced parents, a parenting facilitator or coordinator, a parenting coach, or in some cases, going to mediation with an attorney at your side if your case has escalated to litigation. Never try to resolve your disagreements in front of your children.
Transitioning from one home to another can be difficult for children. After all, resuming time with one parent means separating from the other. This is unavoidable, but there are ways you can make the transitions easier for everyone involved.
When your kids are preparing to leave, be positive and help them feel confident about the transition by:
It can be an adjustment when your children come back to your home, too. They may need some time to get back into the swing of things at your home. You can help your children feel more comfortable with the transition by:
Sometimes in co-parenting situations, children don’t want to leave one parent to see another. This can be stressful for everyone. If this happens to you:
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