Co-Parenting: How to Share Your Children as Loving Divorced Mothers and Fathers
Divorce often turn us into people we barely recognize in the mirror. Feelings of betrayal, frustration, anger, and confusion may cause us to say and do things that do not mesh with our self-perception, or our self-esteem. Maybe we project all the blame onto our partner, or perhaps we’re the type to self-blame, believing that the demise of the marriage is solely our fault.
What is Co-Parenting?
When children are caught in the middle of this painful drama, it is often they who feel responsible, internalizing the issues that mom and dad are facing as their own. If only they had been more quiet, obedient, and helpful — done better at sports or received higher grades. The stress and anxiety that children experience when their familiar worlds are coming apart is great. If there were ever a time for parents to be extra mindful of the emotional needs of their beloved co-creations, it would be during a separation and divorce.
Co-Parenting the Co-Creations
Co-parenting after a divorce seeks the ultimate goal that each parent maintains a stable and loving relationship with the child, leaving the child as unaffected as possible by the schism in the marital relationship. Parents agree to share decision-making authority and the day-to-day raising and nurturing of their offspring with equal rights.
Successful co-parenting requires that adults act like adults for the sole benefit of their offspring. It’s often said that children are the best parts of their parents, and parents claim their kids bring out the best in them. Graceful co-parenting demands the invoking of these “better angel selves” so that marital issues do not become the child’s issues. Keep children outside of the marital maelstrom by bringing a united front and a focus of love to preserving the child’s sense of family. The commitment to the marriage may be ending, but the commitment to the family is for life.
Why You Should Commit to Co-Parenting
In July 2014, The First International Conference on Shared Parenting was held, an interdisciplinary meeting of scholars, medical providers, legal professionals, and mental health practitioners specializing in post-divorce co-parenting issues.
The group further advocated: “There is a consensus that national family law should at least include the possibility to give shared parenting orders, even if one parent opposes it. There is a consensus that shared parenting is in line with constitutional rights in many countries and with international human rights, namely the right of children to be raised by both of their parents.”
Research shows that children of cooperative divorced parents have higher levels of self-esteem and are happier than children whose parents are in conflict. In a 2013 analysis of 47 different studies on father absence, researchers found that while an absent father does not reduce a child’s cognitive ability, it does increase the child’s tendency to act out and exhibit behavior problems. The stress and anger caused by the father’s absence interferes with the child’s ability to think clearly and sabotages his learning potential. This result was most prominent when the absence occurred in early childhood, and occurred most often in boys.
Additional research shows that co-parents fight less with each other. Conflict is highest in divorce cases in which one parent is seeking sole custody. Clearly this has positive financial ramifications by reducing legal fees and protracted litigation.
Co-parents set a lifelong example in negotiating, compromising, and problem solving for their children when they commit to “the highest good for all concerned” principle and consistently implement it. Children benefit from witnessing this respectful treatment and receive a sense of stability and security when parents enforce a common set of rules and disciplinary methods..
Co-Parenting Tips for Divorced Parents
- Equalize access to both parents as much as the child desires. Let her know that she has two homes, and make the transition between homes as smooth as possible.
- Communicate regularly with the co-parent in a courteous, efficient manner, perhaps even compiling concerns to be discussed privately at co-parenting meetings.
- Respect your co-parent by being flexible with schedules, considerate of their needs and limits, and allowing airing of their opinions. Especially treat your co-parenting partner with respect and courtesy in front of the children. This is crucial to their sense of safety and well-being.
- Support your partner. Realize that they may parent differently than you. Avoid second-guessing or overriding their decisions. Always encourage your child to maintain a close and warm relationship with their other parent.
- Maintain consistency in rules, discipline, and schedule. Send and return kids that are rested, clean, well-nourished, and content. Maintain your child’s relationships with their grandparents, extended family, and network of supportive friends. This provides continuity and stability to their lives..
- Don’t exclude your children from the divorce conversation, and do have the conversation with them together. Be reassuring, encouraging them to express anger, fear, confusion, and grief.
- Never vent to your child. Seek support in managing your own emotions and stress levels, be it through therapy, exercise, self-nurturing, or massage. Make taking care of yourself a priority so that your children can depend on you to be solid and sane for them.
- Don’t use kids as messengers to pass communications between you. Handle child support and other financial issues in appropriate ways, never through the child.
- Never ask your children for information about the other parent’s life. Don’t make your child choose an allegiance.
- Don’t fill the love or companionship void in your life with your child. Find your support in peer-to-peer, adult resources, such as Parents Without Partners, Co-Dependents Anonymous, or a church group for newly-single persons.
Above all, be patient with yourselves and each other. Emotional wounds heal over time. If the anger and resentment become overwhelming, and they will, keep your eye on the prize: raising a self-confident, capable, kind, and well-balanced child. If it helps, literally keep your eye on the prize by carrying a favorite photo with you of your best creation for inspiration and comfort!
Our Salt Lake City Divorce Attorneys Can Help Create a Co-Parenting Plan
If you are going through a divorce in the Salt Lake Valley area, contact the experienced and compassionate attorneys at Schmidt Law Firm Law Firm. We will help you create a co-parenting agreement that suits your unique divorce situation. Call (801) 895-3113 to schedule a free 30 minute case review today!
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