Recently on our divorce forum a user asked, “The courts have awarded joint custody to my ex spouse and I. Our marriage was difficult and now I am afraid that co-parenting together after our divorce will be difficult. I know how important it is for us to get a long and not burden our children with our problems. Do you have any suggestions?”
Tips for Co-parenting
Divorce is difficult for the whole family, but it is possible and necessary for the sake of your children to provide a loving, stable, and conflict free environment after the divorce. In fact, there are thousands of couples who are able to put their differences aside and make the co-parenting arrangement work. So what do you have to do to make the new situation work?
Step 1: Put your children’s needs before your own.
The first step to make co-parenting work is to remember you are the adult, and the children are not responsible for the divorce. With this in mind, it’s important to foster a relationship with your ex which increases the security and allows your children to live in two consistent and loving homes. Make sure your children understand the expectations when they visit each home and discuss with your ex how you can establish similar rules and enforcement policies.
Next, realize that treating your ex with respect and finding ways to problem solve together can be a great example for your children.
Step 2: Act how you should, not how you feel.
This is a mantra that should be repeated in many co-parenting situations. Do the right thing. This does not mean that you cannot feel hurt, alienated, or angry. This does mean, however, that you do not need to burden your children with problems and issues they cannot resolve.
Stay focused on the needs of your child and find other ways to relieve your frustration and anger. For example, get therapy, find a hobby, or talk to a friend.
Step 3: Find effective means of communication.
Too often when ex-spouses have a co-parenting relationship they use the children as a go-between to communicate with the other spouse. Not only does this put your child in the center of your relationship, it could create miscommunication and resentment.
Whether you decide to communicate via telephone, email, text message or in-person, make sure your tone is calm, you frame your conversation with requests rather than statements, you listen, and you focus on the children.
Step 4: Create a consistent, predictable home for your children.
Finally, one of the most important things you can do for your child is to give them stability. Stability comes through consistent rules, discipline, and schedule.
Co-parenting is difficult and will take a long period of adjustment. The goal of joint parenting, however, is to allow both parents to remain active, engaged parents. Whether its deciding your child’s medical needs, navigating financial issues, or determining where your child should go to school, you will need to work with your spouse to ensure your children’s best interest are at the forefront of your parenting.
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