Parenting After Divorce
Separation and divorce disrupts the lives of more than just the two people involved. The ripple effect most significantly affects children, who are faced with new home structures, changing rules, and an uncertain future dynamic.
Many parents use shared parental responsibilities as a way to maintain the greatest amount of support in their children’s lives. It offers an agreement that allows parents to make decisions as equal parties. Even with the best intentions, however, this type of co-parenting is challenging for individuals who decide to separate, especially when the circumstances are less than amicable.
Regardless of their feelings about one another, two people can successfully co-parent their children during and after divorce, by holding on to some central tenets.
Tip #1: Cooperation
You can’t get past it; it’s part of the word. The prefix “co-” means together, mutually, in common. Two parties who have mutual children are equally responsible morally and legally for the children, whether or not they’re a romantic couple.
An agreement extends to co-parents far beyond an equal separation of time, energy, and money expended toward your children. Real co-parenting involves working together to make decisions and solve problems in exactly the same way you would if you were still a couple.
Tip #2: Communication
Without communication, your co-parenting ship will inevitably sink. For a co-parenting relationship to be successful, both parties must commit to maintaining open lines of communication.
While communication includes logistics such as schedules, health updates, extra-curricular activities, and discipline issues, it’s helpful to also have the ability to communicate on a sincerely interpersonal level about fears, wins, frustrations, and hopes.
Remember to include your children in co-parenting communication the same way you might have when you were together. This presents a united front and offers an example of good cooperation for your children.
Example: “Dad and I have discussed it, and we decided your curfew can be extended to 11 p.m. on the weekends. It’s the same whether you’re at his house or mine.”
Tip #3: Consistency
Children thrive off consistency, taking comfort in a sense of practical and emotional routines. They are bound to feel some insecurity about their changing life situation; don’t compound that anxiety with a wobbly co-parenting agreement.
Set your ground rules and general agreements and establish consistency within those bounds. There’s time for gradual change along the way. Also, though you’re going through a difficult experience, provide as much emotional stability as possible for your child.
Tip #4: Compromise
The fact is, you don’t always get your way as a parent who is part of a couple. So don’t expect your decisions to always be met with agreement in co-parenting. You’ll be put in the position of needing to compromise frequently.
Remember to check your priorities; you should make decisions because they’re in the best interest of your children, not your need to be dominant or prove a point to your ex-partner. Also, do not allow your new romantic interest to influence your parenting decisions, but do be considerate of their concerns.
Tip #5: Compassion
For most people, this is the most difficult aspect of co-parenting. To make co-parenting work for your children, you have to support your ex-partner, even if it hurts. Your children will work through successful and failed relationships in the course of their lives, and they will learn as much from the way you conduct yourself in separation as they would if you had stayed together.
Having compassion for your co-parent doesn’t mean you have to like them or be their shoulder to cry on. It does involve remembering they are a human being dealing with changes and challenges in much the same way you are. It involves not putting them down—and, in fact, building them up—in front of your mutual children.
And, yes, it might involve going for the occasional cup of coffee to figure out a drop-off and pick-up calendar. Just remember that your positive attitude and supportive behavior now will benefit your children in the future.
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If you would like additional information about co-parenting, contact the Family Law Attorneys at Sterk Family Law to get started. Please complete the form below or contact our office at 815-600-8950 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
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