Co-parenting the children is an essential part of a healthy divorce. You and your soon to be ex may no longer have much, if anything, in common besides the children. However, if it is at all possible, parenting the children as a team, rather than as individuals with completely different rules and different expectations, provides your children stability and security. Co-parenting can be hard after a divorce. This is especially true if your marriage ended due to infidelity, a betrayal of trust, or was not something both parties wanted. It can also be a challenge if you don’t trust your ex’s parenting abilities, are stressed about your financial situation, or have difficulties communicating. Understanding and committing to co-parenting, however, can be a wonderful gift for your children.
Understanding Co-Parenting After Divorce
Co-parenting requires both parents play an active role in their child’s lives on a consistent basis. This ensures a close relationship with each parent. Studies show that strong relationships with each parent reduce the child’s anxiety as well as the potential for depression. Each set of parents can work out their own definition of co-parenting as the divorce progresses or at a later time. What works for some parents may not work for others.
Co-parenting can involve making shared decisions about education, religious training, approaches to parenting, or discipline. Particularly with families where the children see both parents each week, being consistent about enforcing bedtimes, homework routines, chores, or sports or music practice provides children with stability and the knowledge their parents are on the same page.
Benefits of Co-Parenting After Divorce
Studies show children are more likely to flourish in divorces where parents are committed to co-parenting. Benefits include:
- Consistency: Children know what is expected of them. They also know what to expect regardless of which parent they will be staying with that night.
- Mental and emotional stability: Children who see their parents fighting or being disrespectful of the other parents’ rules are more likely to develop issues such as anxiety and depression.
- Learning about healthy relationships: parents who commit to the task of raising the children together provide a healthy example of commitment which gives the children a model to build and maintain relationships with others in the future.
- Teaching problem solving and perseverance: children who see their parents work together to solve problems are more likely to learn to solve problems effectively and persevere themselves.
- Providing a sense of security. Even if both parents are thrilled with the prospect of divorcing, children often need a period of adjustment. When they are secure in the love of each parent and do not feel they have to “pick sides,” they are able to adjust to the new living situation more quickly. They also have better self-esteem.
Shifting Your Paradigm – From Partners to Co-Parents After Divorce
One challenge of co-parenting is that there was a prior relationship which may or may not have been based on trust, mutual respect, or shared parenting approaches. Becoming co-parents is a process, not an event. Redefining the relationship takes effort and commitment, as well as practice. However, over time, adults committed to co-parenting can develop a new relationship, based on their mutual commitment to raising the children.
Co-Parenting as a Business Relationship
Some parents approach the process of co-parenting by considering their commitment to mutually raising the children as a business partnership. They speak with their co-parent as they would a colleague. They use a polite tone, conveying respect and neutrality. Co-parents avoid asking personal questions that are none of their business, just as they would with a colleague. Co-parents focus their conversations on the children and their needs. While a married couple, one or both parties may have communicated demands. As co-parents, many people find making requests more effective. This simple act can serve as a subtle reminder to both parties their relationship is now a joint effort to raise the children and nothing more.
Practicing Co-Parenting After Divorce
When couples first begin to co-parent, it may not feel natural. One way to ease into co-parenting is to focus on the transition of the children from one household to the other. Help your child plan for this transition. Remind them of the upcoming schedule change. Discuss whether they need to bring anything with them and help them pack. Many families find the custom of taking the child to the other parent sends a positive message. Taking just a minute to greet the child’s other parent similarly sends the children a positive message.
Making Decisions as Co-Parents After Divorce
There will be times when one parent needs to make a decision, such as regarding emergency medical care. In that situation, keeping the other co-parent informed as soon as practicable is a must. Parents can accomplish this with a phone call, a text, a co-parenting app, or other mutually agreed on form of communication.
Other times, co-parenting will be done in tandem. For example, decisions about the children’s education rarely require a speedy decision. Co-parents should be able to discuss education decisions and come to a consensus. If possible, co-parents should attend their child’s school conferences together. Additionally, both should attend sporting events, the school play, recitals and the like. Co-parents don’t have to sit next to each other. However, if possible, they both should be there.
Considering Divorce or Have Other Family Law Needs?
If you are considering divorce, would like to discuss a modification of child custody, or think a child support payment should be increased or decreased, contact the attorneys at Fait & DiLima. Our firm works with couples and families with divorce and family law needs. Our team of family law professionals will work with you through every step in the process. Contact the firm today to discuss your family law needs at (301) 251-0100.