Cooperative Co-parenting – Keys to Making It
By Rosalind Sedacca
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry tells us that children
of divorce do best when both of their parents continue to be actively involved
in their lives. It’s the ongoing connection that makes the positive difference
for these children, minimizing the fact that their parents no longer live together.
That’s why co-parenting is so universally encouraged after divorce as
a significant way to reduce the long-term emotional impact on children. Co-parenting
styles and arrangements can differ widely from family to family to suit their
individual needs. However, most all professionals agree that co-parenting will
only succeed if some basic agreements are made and kept and significant mistakes
are avoided. Here are some good rules to follow:
1. Don’t deny your child personal time with both of their parents.
If you want your child to weather the challenges that come with divorce and
disruption of the family dynamic, allow him/her as much time as possible with
both you and your ex. Your child will thank you, have fewer behavioral problems,
and grow up happier and emotionally healthier when you honor their love for
both of their parents.
2. Don’t argue or have tantrums around your child.
Be a positive role model for your child by exhibiting mature behavior. If you
have issues, gripes or reason for angry words with your co-parent, plan a private
time alone, far from your child’s eyes and ears, for those conversations.
The consequences when you do otherwise will be significant and long-lasting.
3. Don’t make your child your confident – or friend!
It’s hard enough for adults to unravel the complex emotions connected
to divorce. Think of how unfair it is to expect your child to bear those burdens
on your behalf. You rob your kids of their childhood when you confide or share
your feelings about your ex with them – especially when you’re trying
to influence them in your direction. Need to rant and vent about your ex? Do
it with a friend – or better yet, a professional with an objective ear.
4. Don’t make your child the messenger.
When you have issues to discuss, discuss them directly, not through your children.
Not only can the kids mess up the messages, they can also intentionally change
the messages due to guilt, anxiety, fear, resentment and other emotions related
to protecting one or both parents. This is a big no-no that can lead to no good.
5. Don’t think like a sole parent; you’re part of a parenting
When you were married you were one of two parents. You still are. When parenting
issues come up, ask yourself what would I do as a parent if I weren’t
divorced? If that still makes sense, respond accordingly. You’re a parent
first and a divorcee second. Parents who continue parenting as a team create
an easier transition and better post-divorce adjustments for their child.
6. Don’t be rigid – flexibility is fruitful.
Every time you bend, go with the flow, compromise and cooperate with your co-parent
you model the kind of behaviors that benefit both of you in the long-term. Flexibility
reduces defensiveness and builds bridges toward better parenting solutions.
Remember, every time you forgive and indulge irritating behavior without creating
an issue, you are doing it to make life easier for your child. Isn’t he
or she worth it?
7. Don’t exclude the other parent whenever you have a choice.
Even when you are the primary residential parent that doesn’t mean your
ex can’t be included in special occasion celebrations, school activities,
sports and other events in your child’s life. Think about how pleased
your child will be having both Mom and Dad on hand to enjoy significant moments
in their life. When it makes sense for both parents to be together on behalf
of your child, be cordial and mature. This lifts an enormous weight off your
child’s shoulders. They’ll thank you when they are grown.
Sometimes it helps to think about co-parenting as a business relationship that
has to work. You make accommodations on behalf of your partner for the higher
cause of business success. This can be a valuable perspective for co-parents
after divorce. When you put all your efforts into making it work, your children
reap the rewards. Isn’t that a bottom line result worth your commitment