Think Kids. The key to co-parenting is to focus on your child. This can be very difficult and it also means that your own emotions towards the divorce or your ex has to come second to the needs of your child. Setting aside such strong feelings may be the hardest part of learning to work cooperatively with your ex. Co-parenting is not about your feelings, or those of your ex, but rather about your child’s happiness, stability, and future well-being.
You’re The Parent. Always remember, YOU are the parent and only you and your ex will know what is best for your child. Forceful family and friends telling you how to raise your child and how to deal with your ex will only complicate the situation. Therefore, say thanks but no thanks when outside opinions become overwhelming.
Do.The best way to think of the divorce is beginning a new parenting relationship with your ex. This new relationship should focus on your child and their well-being. Here is a helpful list of things you should do to encourage a positive relationship:
- Make sure your child doesn’t speak negatively about the other parent. This also means you should keep the negative feelings about the other parent to yourself! Transferring these feelings could anger the child or worsen their view on the divorce.
- Communicate aspects of your child’s development (dating, school, sports, etc.) with the other parent
- When you’re asking, make sure you ask and don’t demand. Your new relationship will have to be based on flexibility, respect and compromise. So, ask “what do you think about…” or “how do you feel about…”. This will encourage respectful behavior from both parties and avoid unnecessary arguments.
Don’t. During the divorce process it can be difficult to not be curious about your ex and how they’re doing. Here are a few tips on how to keep the new parenting relationship with your ex positive.
- A child should never have to choose between parents
- Don’t use your child as a source of information or gossip about your ex
- Never alienate a child from the other parent
Communicate. Face it, if you have children with your ex, the best thing you can do for yourself and your children would be to learn how to communicate with them. This means avoiding unnecessary confrontations! So the next time you’re fuming with anger, put the phone away and write down your feelings. Wait until you’re not in the heat of the moment to communicate and think to yourself: “Is what I want to say beneficial to my child?” It’s healthier for your child’s well-being if they see you cooperating, communicating, and working together. If accomplishing this is a problem, consider taking the time to see a Family Mediator. Family Mediators are certified professionals that can help find the best way for you and your ex to co-parent in an effective and healthy manner. Consider therapy independently, especially if your ex will not agree to mediation, or you believe your personal emotions and/or behaviors would interfere with, or impede your ability to work cooperatively in mediation. Here is a guide of signs that you and your ex should see a Family Mediator:
- You always argue and disagree when you try communicating
- Violent or abusive behavior from one or both parents
- Verbal or physical aggression between parents
- Inconsistent parenting: bedtime, diet, kinds of movies or music, curfew, etc.
- Patterns of alienating the child from one parent
- Parent shows no empathy or concern about how their behavior affects the child
- Parent is using a child as a “spy” or “messenger”
Problems. In a divorce, children will be dealing with a lot of questions, stress, and changes. All of these things can really effect your child. As a parent you should be on the look out for issues that may be effecting your child. Always remember that its okay to seek out professional help when you need it, whether it be support groups, seeing a family mediator, or maybe even a psychologist. Children should be seen by a professional when you come across these issues:
- Isolation from others
- Poor grades or behavior in school
- Child refuses to see a parent
- Child no longer enjoys activities they used to enjoy
- Strange, odd, or extreme behaviors or emotions (crying, screaming, or giving attitude)
- Signs of distress
- Noticeable changes in child’s activeness or interests
- One child is firmly aligned with one parent
- Poor concentration
- Trouble with too much or not enough sleep
Plan. A key factor to remember when co-parenting is consistency. Therefore, it would be in the best interest of your children to plan out schedules with your ex as much as possible. Avoiding problems or confrontation means compromising and being flexible. So the next time your ex is late to meet you or of they forget to send the kids to school with lunch, write it down and breathe. Again, consider seeing a family mediator if these issues continue. Here is a helpful way to keep confrontations minimal:
- Clothing/Laundry: Each parent should buy their own clothes for the kids. You can keep track of this by putting “M” for mom or “D” for dad on the label of the clothes to keep track. This will encourage each parent to do their own laundry
- Drop-off locations: Always remember to pick up and drop off your own children without friends or family. Avoid asking family or friends to do this for you as well. You’re the parent of your children and if a parent needs to hand-off something or speak to one parent, it may promote problems or anger.
- School: Children should be constantly reminded that BOTH parents are involved in their well-being. Try attending school functions by meeting your ex there. If your relationship with your ex is still unstable, try sitting a few chairs away. Remember, children want to see their parents cooperating. If sports practice or other activities are frequent, set up a schedule to take turns.
- Schedules: Try planning as far ahead as possible. There are many online programs that allow you to share your schedules with others such as Google Calendar. This will make it easier to plan your time.
Help. There are a number of ways you can seek help for co-parenting or your divorce. Here is a list of ideas that could help sort out conflicts in your situation:
- Parent Coordinator: This certified professional works with couples who have on-going issues or court ordered parenting plans. They can help build plans for you and your ex to follow if conflict keeps interrupting. Parent Coordinators are also able to testify in court about non-compliance.
- Family Mediator: This is also a certified professional that can meet with two parties who are experiencing problems. A mediator is a neutral individual who helps guide the two parties in conflict toward a more peaceful relationship. Many divorced couples use family mediation to solve common issues such as communication, cooperation, or maybe just having neutral party to supervise discussion.
- Support Groups: Its easy to think you’re alone during this tough time in your life. In support groups you can learn about resources and meet other individuals dealing with similar issues.
- Counseling: Its okay to recognize its time for you to talk to someone about your situation. One-on-one therapy is a great way to talk to someone to help you overcome the overwhelming emotions, responsibilities, and changes of divorce and co-parenting. If you think your child is having issues, it would be beneficial for them to see the psychologist as well.
Keep in mind our agency has a Social Worker who is certified by the Supreme Court as a Family Mediator, Parent Coordinator, and Case Manager. For adults and children, our psychologists offer goal-oriented individual therapy for key emotional and behavioral concerns, such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders, adult ADHD, and separation and divorce counseling.