While moving through a divorce can seem like an insurmountable obstacle, for many parents it is just the beginning of a new and equally intimidating challenge, co-parenting your children. Hats off to all of you who have chosen to remain in your children’s lives as co-parents. It means both of you deeply care about your children and want to continue raising them in the least-disruptive possible manner.
Of course not all parents can share the parenting process in this way and for some couples it is not the ideal situation to even attempt it. But those couples who are determined to co-parent and choose to live relatively close to one another so as not to disturb the school, sports and other related schedules of their children, certainly deserve credit and acknowledgement.
This is a complex topic that can’t be glossed over with a few simple how-tos. It is based on sincere levels of communication and a sense of trust between the former spouses. It is the path that I chose when I separated from my husband and we successfully mastered the ups and downs over the years without too much conflict and confusion. In fact, whenever my son, who was eleven when we first split, was with his father, I had a sense of peace and relief. I knew he was with the one person in the world whom I most trusted to lovingly parent him so I could relax and enjoy my time off from parenting without anxiety.
That peace-of-mind is a major advantage to choosing the co-parenting route. Your children enjoy the security and comfort of being with their other parent when they are not with you. You are less dependent on strangers as caretakers in their lives, which is a win-win all around.
As a divorced parent myself I have considerable experience with this subject and some sound suggestions for mastering the art of co-parenting harmoniously after divorce.
One of the best things you can do for your children is to transition smoothly from spouse to co-parent with your former husband or wife. It won’t always be easy and there will certainly be challenges along the way, but here are some things to remember that will help make your new relationship work.
• Never talk badly about their other parent, period. If children ask questions, try to give them age-appropriate answers that are honest without passing judgment.
• If your ex is in your children’s life, don’t allow your children to call your new partner daddy, mommy or anything close. Hopefully you will get the same treatment in return.
• Always give your ex the first right of refusal regarding doing something special with your children before asking your new significant other to do it. For example, taking your teenage daughter for her driver’s test.
• If possible, try to celebrate birthdays, graduations and special events together with their other parent. Take into consideration each other’s comfort issues and pick a place that will eliminate stress so you can enjoy your children and give them a sense of family.
• Learn to pick your battles with your ex when it comes to the children. Get a feeling for what is worth discussing and what you actually have no control over.
These suggestions are worth serious consideration. When you ignore any of these basic communication principles, you set yourself up for conflict, jealousy, stress and tension. Breaking these rules sabotages your sense of trust with your ex and that opens the door to mind games, retaliations, petty bickering and a lack of harmony for everyone in the family. Remember: when that happens, your children are the ones who pay the price!
Be the hero in your relationship with your children’s other parent. Cooperate. Collaborate. Be flexible and do one another favors. You are much more likely to get them back in return. Even if that’s not the case, your children are watching you and will learn from your role model behavior how to cope with challenging life situations.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC, is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For more information about the book, her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, visit http://www.childcentereddivorce.com.