By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
While moving through 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 care deeply 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 realistic to even attempt it. But those divorced parents who 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. When handled with care, 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, and that is a win-win all around.
One of the best things you can do for your children is to transition smoothly to co-parenting with your former spouse. It won’t always be easy and there will certainly be challenges along the way, but here are some guidelines to remember that will help make your new co-parenting relationship work.
- Don’t bad-mouth your ex around the kids, ever! If kids ask questions, give them age- appropriate answers that are honest but not judgmental. Keep adult information from your children and don’t point the finger of blame at their Mom or Dad. Kids are hurt and feel guilty when the parent they love is put-down by their other parent.
- Never fight around your children. Parental conflict creates turmoil and emotional upheaval for kids. Keep conflict away from them and they are better able to handle the adjustments divorce makes in their lives.
- Always offer your ex the opportunity for special times with the kids – before involving a new relationship partner, i.e.: taking your teen for their drivers test or tryouts for a new sport.
- Don’t share adult information with your kids, even teens, as tempting as it may seem. Their brains can’t fully comprehend complex emotional material. Nor can they “fix” your relationships problems. Becoming aware of adult issues robs kids of their childhood which they can never get back again. Use experienced professionals and caring friends as your confidants.
- Avoid making your children your spies. Kids pick up on your motivation and feel uncomfortable with questions about their other parent’s life and activities. Often, they will lie to protect one or both of you. Don’t put them into such a difficult and challenging position.
- Prioritize Mom and Dad being together for special occasions: celebrating birthdays, graduations and other significant events. Be considerate of one another as co-parents to eliminate stress so your kids can enjoy the event with a sense of family support.
- You and your ex won’t agree on all things so decide to pick your battles regarding parenting issues. Determine what’s worth discussing and addressing. Identify the situations you can’t control as well as the battles you won’t win and need to release. Your children will thank you for taking the high road whenever possible.
- Use an online scheduling tool to keep straight about visit swaps, school activities, sports, vacations, holidays, parties and who is doing what – when! These tools are designed to help you reduce conflict, misunderstandings, stress and errors when it comes to parenting your children.
When you ignore any of these basic co-parenting guidelines, you set yourself up for conflict, jealousy, stress and tension. Breaking these rules also sabotages your sense of trust with your ex and that opens the door to mind games, retaliations and discord 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 favors. You are much more likely to get them back in return.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. She is the author of How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children – With Love! To get her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, and learn about her coaching services, programs and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, visit https://www.childcentereddivorce.com.
All rights reserved. (C) Rosalind Sedacca