In a divorce that involves children, co-parenting is one of the most important aspects of helping kids feel safe and secure during this difficult time, and for years to follow. But without the ability to compromise, some couples find that they can’t agree on the most basic issues of parenting.
Disagreement on major issues of parenting often leads to conflict that can make a divorce even more complicated. That’s why divorcing couples who have children should create a parenting agreement with the understanding that through compromise they can find solutions that are in the best interest of their children.
As you begin this challenging process of co-parenting, there are some things you should keep in mind that can help things go smoother.
Don’t Malign or Alienate the Other Parent to Your Children if You Want A Successful Co-parenting Relationship
One of the worst things you can do is to criticize the other parent in front of your children. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many parents try to make children their allies against the other parent during and after a divorce.
Maligning or alienating the other parent creates confusion, anger and resentment in your children, and makes it nearly impossible for you to come to any agreement with the person with whom you will be sharing parenting duties.
Show Respect to the Other Parent
Successful co-parenting requires mutual respect between you and the other parent. If you make a habit of positively acknowledging the other parent’s efforts, and respecting their reasonable viewpoints on the important aspects of childrearing, you will promote an atmosphere of trust. Moreover, you will make it much easier to resolve any disagreements that might arise, because these issues are more likely to be resolved with maturity and respect instead of grappling with resentment and hostility.
Make Communication a Top Priority
Communication is one of the keys to every successful relationship, and while that may not have been true for you during the marriage, it must be the cornerstone of your co-parenting efforts.
The truth is, communicating about parenting issues is very different than talking about your innermost feelings with your former spouse. You don’t have to be face-to-face to talk about issues related to the children. In fact, the ubiquity of mobile devices has rendered personal interaction obsolete, to a degree.
Make communication a priority in co-parenting, and inform the other parent about changes in a visitation schedule, changes in an agreed-upon pickup time, or even upcoming activities such as a school play or a dance.
When both parents are fully aware of what the other parent is doing, planning on doing or unable to do, it makes the co-parenting process more harmonious.
Give Your Kids the Freedom to Express Their Feelings
One of the biggest mistakes divorcing parents make is not giving their children the opportunity to voice their fears and concerns. Your kids are often the ones most affected by the divorce, and regardless of how well you co-parent, ignoring or not allowing them to express their feelings openly, will most certainly affect them negatively. Encourage your children to talk about how they’re feeling about the whole process, and explain to them how the co-parenting will work so they understand the changes that are coming. Above all, reassure them that they are still loved and cherished, despite the dissolution of the marriage. You may also wish to seek a reputable family counselor who will help your kids express their feelings in a way that is empowering to their well-being and their sense of self-worth as an integral member of the changing family structure.
Get On the Same Discipline Page
Challenges with co-parenting occur when children misbehave at times and the parent’s discipline in widely different ways. This causes confusion and increases the likelihood that the kids will soon learn which parent is less strict, and modify their behavior accordingly.
To avoid this problem, get on the same discipline page as the other parent, and make sure that you have a unified set of consequences or discipline methods when your children misbehave. When your kids realize that both parents are united in discipline and behavioral modification methods, they are more likely to curb a negative behavior.
Don’t Avoid Family Activities
Although it may be difficult at first, it is important that you don’t avoid family activities, such as going to see your children play at a game or having an outing together.
You and the other parent are no longer a couple, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t plan some family activities that require both of you to be present. Remember, co-parenting is all about the children, not about rehashing the problems that led to your divorce.
Share Cool Things You Did With Your Kids
If you took the children on a camping trip for the weekend, or you went to an amusement park, make sure you share the experience with the other parent through videos and photos. This helps cement the co-parenting bond and helps the other parent to feel invested in the process.
Re-evaluate the Plan
It is important for you to re-evaluate your co-parenting plan every few months with the other parent to make sure things are proceeding well. This can include any adjustments that need to be made in the visitation schedule or the number of overnights that the other parent receives.
Learn To Ignore Minor Annoyances
Co-parenting involves a series of compromises, so it is best to learn to ignore minor annoyances that are not worth starting a conflict with the other parent over. Don’t be a stickler for every minor detail in the parental agreement. Learning not to nitpick over small things can help make the co-parenting process much smoother, and will encourage the other parent not to sweat the small stuff either.
Getting the Legal Help You Deserve
Co-parenting is the foundation for effectively caring for the children you share with an ex-spouse. If you are in the process of a divorce, and you want to create a Marital Settlement Agreement and Parenting Plan that includes how you and your soon-to-be former spouse will share parenting duties, hiring a family law attorney is most certainly in your best interest and the best interest of your children.
The Law Office of Eric C. Cheshire P.A., P.A. and his experienced team can help negotiate a Marital Settlement Agreement and Parenting Plan that is fair and that protects all your rights as a parent. If you would like to learn how we can help, call us today at (561) 677-8090.