Let’s face it, divorce is tough enough for anyone to go through. When you’re a parent, it can feel like an insurmountable obstacle, especially when you think about co-parenting your children.
Ask yourself this crucial question — and keep it in mind daily as you move through life as co-parents …
What will our kids say about how we handled the divorce when they are grown adults?
As a divorced parent myself, I understand the complexity of the challenges ahead. My son was eleven when we split. He was old enough to feel the fear, anger, confusion and other heightened emotions. And yet young enough to still be deeply attached to both mom and dad and experience the anxiety of not knowing what lie ahead.
That’s why I founded the Child-Centered Divorce Network for parents and became a Divorce & Parenting Coach. My goal is to share lessons I’ve learned through my own experience as well as lessons gleaned from the dozens of divorce and parenting experts I’ve interviewed over the last ten years.
When it comes to co-parenting, the key is learning how to COOPERATE.
That’s not an easy path following a divorce, but it’s the path to a happier outcome for everyone in the family.
No two divorces are the same. So I don’t want to pretend there are a few simple steps to co-parenting success. It’s a complex and highly challenging topic. But there are some truths we can all benefit from keeping in mind:
1) Everyone in the family benefits when there’s a sense of trust between the former spouses and a sincere level of communication. That’s the path I chose when my husband and I divorced. It helped us successfully master the ups and downs over the years without too much conflict and confusion. In fact, when my son was with his father, instead of anxiety, I felt relief. I knew he was with the one person in the world I most trusted to parent him with love. So I could relax and enjoy my time off from parenting without stress. That was a gift.
Moreover, having that peace-of-mind is a major advantage and a strong reason for making your co-parenting work. It gives your children the security and comfort of being with their other parent when not with you. Plus you depend less on strangers as caretakers — and reinforce the family bond, which most children really appreciate.
2) The secret to successful co-parenting is having both parents agree they love their children more than anything else that may affect their co-parenting process. That means they are committed to resolving all conflicts by keeping each child’s best interest at heart. When disagreements occur, the co-parents are open to reaching out for help. This can include calling a Divorce & Parenting Coach, a co-parent counselor, a Parenting Coordinator, a family therapist, child-psychologist, a school Guidance Counselor, or other parenting experts. The goal is getting usable realistic advice, suggestions or strategies for creating a win-win outcome. With this mutual intention in mind, a positive, workable outcome is not only possible — it’s usually probable!
3) Always keep in mind that co-parenting is a life-long commitment — not to one another but to your children. You’re still parents and will both be parenting your children long after they are grown adults with their own kids. So think long-term.
Here are my suggestions for making the co-parenting experience smoother and easier for you both:
- Discuss and create written agreements you can both commit to in the moths and years after the divorce. These can be revised as your children age, reflecting their growing independence and personal interests.
- Understand the importance of being flexible with all of your plans. Life challenges always get in the way so be prepared.
- Cooperate and do favors for one another when asked. This works both ways!
- Remember to choose your battles wisely. That’s the key to minimizing conflict. Agree to disagree when needed.
- Use one of the co-parenting scheduling tools such as Zimplified.com to ensure all plans, activities and decisions are found in one place— for you as well as for the kids.
- When facing topics that are complex, confusing or challenging, bring in a coach, therapist or other objective third party to help you find workable resolutions.
- Commit to spending some family time together now and then for special occasions if your children appreciate those experiences. Most do. Don’t make your children face their graduation or their wedding coping with angry immature parents.
- Never turn to your children as your confidants, spies or messengers. Seek out adults for this support.
- Find ways to compliment, acknowledge or recognize your co-parent when they do something positive toward the co-parenting relationship. It generates goodwill, which goes far in supporting healthier co-parenting ahead.
- Always be tactful, accurate, and respectful when discussing difficult or negative issues, especially when asking your co-parent to change their behavior.
- Be sure to put yourself in your child’s shoes to more fully understand their experiences as a child of divorce. Try to make life as consistent, rewarding and stress-free as possible for them day after day. Remember, they are innocent and didn’t ask for this life challenge.
Keep in mind that co-parenting is more of an art than a science. You both need to find your way together. Don’t be influenced by other people’s agendas. Create agreements that work for you— regardless of whether your friends, family, or neighbors are doing the same. The key is to always put your kids’ needs first before making any co-parenting decisions. When you don’t agree about what is best for your kids, step back and get professional support.
The bottom line: Be the parental role models your children can look up to. Because when they are adults they will hold you accountable for what they experienced. So do the right things starting now!
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach who works internationally via phone and Skype. She is recognized as The Voice of Child-Centered Divorce and is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, which provides valuable resources for parents who are facing, moving through or transitioning after divorce. Rosalind is also the author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children – with Love! For Rosalind’s FREE ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, visit: www.childcentereddivorce.com.