By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
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. It confirms you want to continue raising them in the least-disruptive possible manner.
Of course, not all parents can share the parenting process in this way. For some couples it is not the ideal situation to even attempt it. Those couples who are determined to co-parent mindfully, certainly deserve credit and acknowledgement. They seek solutions that involve cooperation and coordination between both parents. For example, choosing to live relatively close to one another. That reduces negative impact on school, sports and other related schedules of their children.
Mastering Co-parenting Challenges To Create a Win-Win Outcome
Obviously, co-parenting 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. My son was eleven at the time. We successfully mastered the ups and downs over the years without too much conflict and confusion. In fact, whenever my son 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. I knew 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 I have accrued considerable experience with this subject. That developed into 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 partner. It won’t always be easy. There will certainly be challenges along the way. But they’re worth tackling on behalf of your children.
Tips For More Successful Co-parenting
Here are some key points to contemplate that will help make your co-parenting relationship work.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Always give your ex the first right of refusal regarding doing something special with your children. Yes, before asking your new significant other to do it. For example, taking your teenage daughter for her driver’s test.
4. If possible, try to celebrate birthdays, graduations and special events together with their other parent. Consider each other’s comfort issues and triggers. Pick a place that will eliminate stress so you can enjoy your children and give them a sense of family.
5. 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.
Minimizing Long-term Stress, Conflict and Tension
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. 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, remember your children are watching you. They will learn from your role model behavior how to cope with challenging life situations. Show them your very best side!
* * *
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! For more information about her books, programs and coaching services – and to get her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, visit https://www.childcentereddivorce.com.