What Exactly Is Co-Parenting?
Co-parenting happens when both parents playing an active and crucial role in the child’s life after divorce (barring any dangerous factors like domestic violence). Although it is obviously a far different experience than growing up in a setting where both parents live in the same house, cooperative co-parenting can help create a healthy environment for the development of your child(ren). Successful co-parenting also demands mutual respect from each parent, which allows children to grow up with positive relationships with both parents, despite the divorce between them.
Scholarly research even suggests that, because both parents contribute uniquely to a child’s development, positive co-parenting plays a crucial role in the health and well-being of the child, often impacting the odds of developing familial-related depression and its long-term effects. Although working with your ex-partner may sound like a daunting task, always remember that the better you work with your ex-spouse, the better the environment your children will be raised in.
How to Make Co-Parenting Work
It is important to recognize that there is no single “map” or solution to building a successful co-parenting arrangement. Although it will be tough, the best way to try and make co-parenting work is to no longer view your ex as a previous romantic partner, but instead as a co-parenting partner. The intimate relationship between the two parents may be over, but for the sake of the children, the familial relationship needs to survive. While an early commitment to successful co-parenting could affect the nature of the legal agreement, ongoing success at co-parenting is not largely dictated by that legal agreement.
Why Parents Should Co-Parent After Divorce
The benefits of co-parenting are innumerable when it comes to the development of a child, but some specific benefits include a quicker and easier transition for the child into their post-divorce life. Going through the divorce process is taxing on children, but with both parents working together, the child will hopefully be able to adjust to their new situation a little bit easier. Another benefit to co-parenting is setting an example for your child. As the child ages, he or she will see the effort put forth by both parents and model their future relationships on that mutual dedication and respect.
Lastly, a benefit to co-parenting can be found in the consistency of the child’s life. Despite rotating between houses or juggling multiple homes however the parents seem most beneficial for the child(ren), if the parents are able to cooperate together and talk through the situations at their respective houses, the child can be held to similar standards at each house. This results in a consistent environment for the child, which deters relationships being favored via bribing or being the “fun” parent.
Tip #1: Put Your Child’s Interests Above Your Feelings
In order to be successful co-parents, both parents must set aside any hurt feelings they have towards their ex-partner, and solely focus on the interests of the children. Those feelings which stem from divorce are completely natural and it may seem impossible to put them aside, but in order to advance in your co-parenting relationship, it has to be done.
Another crucial step in achieving this goal is never expressing these feelings to the children. It’s not their place to be caught in the middle of the parents' personal drama, and it severely detracts from the efforts of co-parenting in general. One way to understand this is that feelings towards your ex might not ever change or dissipate, but they are never the concern of the child. The child didn’t play any role in the divorce, and he/she shouldn’t be caught in the tension between parents.
Being able to separate the feelings surrounding the divorce from the effort it takes to successfully co-parent is one of the hardest skills you'll need to learn.
Tip #2: (Like Most Things in Life) Communication Is Key
In order to be successful co-parents, each parent needs to be able to effectively communicate with the other without it turning into a battle. The time for arguing and yelling at each other has passed, and now all time spent communicating with one another should be done with humility and efficiency. As stated above, just because your marriage is over doesn’t mean your family is, and being able to effectively communicate with your ex is one huge step in ensuring it stays that way.
Even if you aren’t meeting your former partner face-to-face, email, texts, and phone calls are all valuable forms of communication that should remain conflict-free. Here is one method which might help you communicate effectively with your ex after a divorce: view the relationship as a business partnership. Use all of the professionalism and respect which is demanded during a meeting with a boss or colleague, and transfer that to your meetings with your ex.
The more respect you show him/her, the more likely they will return the favor. Do not be the only one setting plans, dates, or times. Make sure you are listening to your ex, and even if you don’t agree with him or her on a certain aspect of how the child should be raised, it’s important you at least listen to what your ex is trying to communicate.
Tip #3: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Acknowledge that you will be in contact with your ex for a long time after the divorce. Seeing them frequently within this context is one of the first steps in creating a stable environment for your child. In order to ensure the child is being held to a similar standard at each house, the parents must work as a team and communicate with each other the wide range of parental obstacles they're facing.
The child has been thrown into a lifestyle very different from the one they have always known, but the parents can still create a consistent and nurturing environment. Even if the rules aren’t exactly the same, working together ensures your child(ren) won’t be drastically shifting between two different lifestyles depending on who they are with at any particular time. By creating similar rules to be followed and disciplinary acts in case those rules aren’t followed, the child will have a better sense of structure surrounding his/her home life.
Next, part of working as a team means that major decisions concerning the child should be done together. However the parents decide to maintain the child’s health care, school system, or financial stability is up to them, but it is extremely important that these topics are talked through together by both parents.
Lastly, obviously parents will come to some disagreements or roadblocks throughout the co-parenting experience, but that is completely normal. What is important is how parents react once they get here. Remember that the more respect you show your ex, the more likely it is they will reciprocate that back to you. Don’t forget that showing basic courtesies in these situations changes the outcome of the argument. Lastly, when caught in unavoidable conflicts, try to compromise as much as possible without sacrificing the well-being of your child.
If you and your ex are unable to reach a compromise and continue to butt heads in general, there are many options available to perhaps fix the situation, like a joint counselor.
Tip #4: Make Moving Between Houses Seamless
Your child's experience is now dramatically different than what they are used to, and fostering an environment where they feel safe moving from one parent to the next is very important.
Each time the child begins their time with one parent, they are leaving their time with the other. The child should never feel scared or threatened to go from one home to the next; instead, it should be an easy and unconscious transition. A few things to keep in mind during this time of changeover: remember to inform your child of the dates and times they will be heading over to the other parent's house. It’s important that the child is just as knowledgeable of the plan as the parents are. Also, avoid picking up your kid/s at your ex-partner’s house and instead opt for the child to always be dropped off at their destination.
Doing it this way ensures that one parent doesn’t interrupt those last special moments between the child and another parent. Once your child returns home, there are still special acts which can be done to ensure an easy transition. Offer the child their own time or space in order to get readjusted. In order to avoid several trips back to your ex-spouse’s house, double up on the essentials which you know your kid will always need. Also, create a consistent routine for the child when they come back, maybe a tv show or a favorite meal. Knowing what to expect during unfamiliar times can help your child adjust to each new scene a little bit easier. Above all, know this is a challenging time for your children, and let them know you are there for them every step of the way.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of H. William Edgar are dedicated to the practice of family law. We have offices in Riverside, Temecula, Anaheim and Palm Desert, and we are committed to helping you get the results that your family deserves. Contact us online or by calling (888) 251-9618 to review your options.