Two people who did not get along when they were married will not magically be able to co-parent with ease. It is a simple truth that often gets lost in the heat of divorce—and it’s one that can hurt your children as they struggle to heal.
The expectation that once the marriage is over, the two of you will return to your corners and come out as better partners, is false. More than likely, you will come out swinging, just as you did when you were married.
If you want to succeed at co-parenting (which also includes joint and shared custody), you need to set some guidelines. At CT Mediation Center in Connecticut, we are experts in guiding newly divorced couples through the co-parenting process.
Here are some ideas to keep in mind when co-parenting:
- Work with a co-parenting coordinator, with or without your ex. Having a neutral party helps you manage your emotions. In turn, this allows you to focus on your children’s health and wellbeing.
- Heal thyself so you can heal your family. Effective co-parenting does not require friendship. It does require cooperation and mutual respect. That means both parties must start working on healing from the pain of divorce before they can create healthy new patterns for their children and themselves. Do what it takes—and that includes counseling—even if you’re not the “talk it out type of guy or gal.”
- It’s not about you. One of the hardest emotions to manage is your very own ego. You believe you are the better parent. And maybe you are. But you could also be feeling insecure, afraid that your child will love your ex more than you. Don’t sink into the game of pulling petals off a daisy. Love me, loves me not belongs in fairy tales, not real life. It’s about loving your child more than you hate your ex.
- Once upon a time you two were a happily ever after. The fact that it’s over is not your child’s fault. Your child has every right to love your ex. It’s normal for children to love their parents. It is NOT normal for you to steal that love away. That’s why you should make every effort to co-parent effectively.
- Silence your support system. It goes without saying that friends and family are on your side following a divorce or legal separation. But don’t encourage them to get involved in the aftermath, it only slows down the healing process. Worse, their attitude can affect your children, by tainting how they perceive the absent parent. Your support system should function like your co-parenting counselor: impartial, with the final focus on doing what is right for the children.
It takes a strong commitment to co-parent successfully. It is challenging because you have to set your own emotions and personal needs aside. It’s a new behavior, and one that takes time to learn. You’re going to make mistakes, say and do things you wish you hadn’t. Forgive each other and keep trying.
- Take a respectful, low-key, formal approach to interacting with each other
- Are careful with verbal and nonverbal communication
- Say positive things about the other parent which reinforces that it’s okay for the child to love the other parent
- Keep a positive attitude when listening to their children speak about the other parent
- Allow reasonable access to the other parent
- Do not make plans that interfere with the other parent's time with the children
- Make regular appointments by phone, email, or in person, to discuss the children's issues
- Agree to disagree, and resume discussions later if one parent becomes angry
- Respect each other's privacy and do not ask personal questions
- Do not ask the children private information about the other parent
- Do not stop communicating because non-communication is a form of fighting
Despite your best intentions, sometimes co-parenting doesn’t go as planned. It could be that one parent drops out of the picture or refuses to co-parent cooperatively. When this happens, accept the situation, it’s likely the lowest stress option for you and your children. If co-parenting is impossible, reinforcing to your children that you love them and will always be there for them can make a huge difference in how they deal with the divorce over the long haul.
If you would like to learn more about divorce mediation and where co-parenting fits in, please contact CT Mediation Center in Connecticut.