Parenting is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, experiences life has to offer. But it becomes even more so for parent and child when Mom and Dad divorce. Consistency and routine for the child can be lost and the child may struggle to feel a sense of control. Effective co-parenting is essential for the healthy growth and development of the children of divorced parents. At The Harris Law Firm, we understand the importance of co-parenting and offer some tips on beginning this new relationship between divorced parents and their children.
Following a divorce, the relationship with your ex-spouse changes from personal to co-parenting. Your new relationship is now about your children and not either of you. Your focus shifts to that which is in the best interests of your children. Work to put your emotions – anger, resentment, hurt – aside. This is the first step in developing a cooperative relationship with your ex-spouse. By putting your emotion and feeling about the other parent aside, knowing it is “all about the children,” your children will never be placed in the unenviable position of being in the middle and having to side with one parent over the other. Keep co-parenting challenges to the adults, and never use your children as a messenger. Communicate directly with the other parent and keep your focus on what is best for the children.
We have all heard the mantra “location, location, location” when talking about real estate. With co-parenting, the mantra should be “communication, communication, communication.” Each parent should initiate and maintain effective communication with the other parent. Effective communication techniques may include making requests instead of making statements, listening to and conveying an understanding of the other parent’s position, committing to meet and talk on a consistent basis, and keeping the subject matter focused on the children. Avoid overreaction and turn to support groups and books to support your ability to effectively communicate with your co-parent.
Let’s face it, transition is challenging for all of us. But it is particularly difficult for children who routinely move from one household to another on a multi-day or weekly basis. As a co-parent, take steps to make these transitions as easy as possible. When it comes time for your child to leave, remind them a day or two in advance that they will be going to the other parent’s home. Help your child pack in advance so that they do not forget important items such as stuffed animals or photographs. Avoid “picking up” your children from the other parent. Instead, “drop them off.” The perception will be that you are not taking the children from the other parent but giving them the children. When your children return, give them space and down time, and maintain their routine. Children love routine!
We have all watched a sporting event and seen what happens when one team struggles to work together using teamwork. You are a member of the parent “team” when it comes to co-parenting. Being a team player means striving for co-parenting consistency. In order to avoid confusion, children need to have similar expectations at each home regarding lifestyle rules about homework, curfew and off-limit activities. The same consistency should be applied to discipline when rules are broken, when making important decisions about medical needs, education and financial matters. Resolve co-parenting disagreements by trying to reach a compromise. Keep the lines of communication open, respecting the other parent’s position, and focusing on the most important issues, not the “little stuff.” Consider using a coach or mediator to effectively resolve disputes and keep the teamwork top priority.
Being a good parent is never easy. Being a good co-parent takes even more effort. If you keep your children the focus, learn to communicate with the other parent effectively, help your children to transition between parents and stay committed to being a team player, you and your ex-spouse are well on your way to raising children that are independent, academically successful, physically and mentally healthy and well-adjusted members of society.
At The Harris Law Firm, we value you and your children. We are available to help you navigate the turbulent waters of divorce and parenting in a post-divorce world. If you are contemplating a divorce or need assistance with any other family matters, contact our experienced family law attorneys to schedule a consultation.