An estimated 50% of all American children will see their parents’ marriage end in divorce. This means that a lot of us are collaborating with former spouses to make our kids feel as safe, cherished, and loved as possible. That’s where co-parenting after a divorce comes in.
It’s an arrangement that has its joys—and challenges. To help you make decisions that support beneficial and effective co-parenting, five tips are listed below.
1. Commit to being cooperative.
If your marriage ended on less than amicable terms, the thought of partnering with your former spouse for any reason may leave you on edge. Try to remember that you don’t have to be friends in order to be good co-parents. You simply have to care more about your child’s well-being than your own feelings of resentment.
If you’re concerned that a single disagreement can escalate into a shouting match, try to communicate in writing as much as possible. This way, you also have a record of what you both discussed and agreed to, reducing the risk of misunderstanding.
2. Work through your own feelings.
The single most common obstacle to positive co-parenting is bitterness, anger, and other negative emotions. Even if the divorce was amicable, it’s normal to mourn the end of your relationship. If your feelings have the potential to impact your co-parenting relationship, talk to supportive friends and family members or see a counselor. Your children deserve to have both parents in their lives without detecting stress or animosity.
3. Commit to a co-parenting plan.
The best parenting plan is based on flexibility, mutual respect, and the best interests of the children. Work with your former spouse to come up with and finalize a plan that works for parents and children alike. If your kids are older, you can also ask for their input and ideas after explaining the expectations and goals of parenting plans.
When you draft a plan, ensure that it covers holidays and other special events in a fair manner, and be as creative as you can to come up with a plan that reflects the realities of your specific family. For example, if your family tradition has always been to spend Christmas with the grandparents in another state, then your parenting plan should not be one where you have to exchange the kids on Christmas Day, thereby making travel for either parent impossible.
4. Always be flexible.
While written plans are a great place to start, remember that the unexpected can- and probably will- happen, making it necessary for both parents to be flexible. For example, what will happen if any of the kids become sick and need to stay home or one of you is suddenly required to work longer hours? What will happen if there is an event like a birthday party or concert that the kids have been invited to attend during the other parent’s time? The co-parenting plan may also need to be adjusted as the children grow older and participate in after-school activities.
5. Refrain from speaking negatively about one another.
No matter how strongly you feel about your former spouse, never disparage the children’s other parent in front of them. They will see you as adversaries instead of co-parents working together in their best interests, and become confused, anxious, and resentful.
Being effective co-parents is not always easy, but it is invariably worth it. Here at Haas & Associates, we have helped many divorced couples develop effective parenting plans and are here to help you as well. To schedule a consultation, contact us or call (919) 783-9669 today.