Divorce is hard on everyone involved, but perhaps most of all for the children. With constant shuffling around and spending this weekend here, that weekend there, it’s hard to make your children feel like their lives will ever be normal again. Fortunately, there are ways to combat this tendency and present a united parental front with your children. Here are seven crucial tips on co-parenting after divorce from Valerie M. Little Law Corp.
1. Be Clear About Boundaries and Parental Unity
The divorce decree lays out which parents have what custodial schedule and what rights and obligations each has. It is the responsibility of both parents to understand not only what is written in the decree, but also what behavior is expected beyond the letter of the law. Both parents need to work together to establish a clearly defined parenting strategy that takes into account not only the legal aspects, but the personal home aspects of successfully raising children.
2. Refrain from undermining the Other Parent’s Authority
On occasion the temptation will arise to challenge the other parent, even or perhaps especially in front of the children when there’s a disagreement on how parental authority is exercised. This should be avoided at all reasonable cost, simply because it will make one parent appear weaker and less authoritative. Instead of hashing this out in front of the kids, this conversation is best saved for a later time when you can do so privately. Approaching the problem from a hostile standpoint won’t help matters either. Instead, say something like, “I didn’t like the way you disciplined Tommy today. I think it was inappropriate. Can we try to work out something so that doesn’t happen again?”
3. Don’t Vent your Frustrations in Front of the Children
No one ever said co-parenting was easy, but “bad-mouthing” the other parent in front of the children is only going to make the situation worse and is usually a violation of the language of the divorce decree. If you must go on a rant about your ex-spouse, do so to a therapist, a counselor or even your friends, but never when the kids are around.
4. Ask, don’t Tell
Phrasing your ideas or suggestions in the form of a statement can be misinterpreted by either side as an attempt to take improper control of the situation. Instead, framing suggestions as questions such as “Why don’t we try?” or “Can we consider?” makes your approach seem much more neutral and amicable.
5. Focus on the Kids
While it may be tempting to discuss your needs or desires with your former spouse, this can lead to arguments or cause alienation. You and your spouse need to both remember that while you are no longer a committed couple to one another, your kids are still relying on both of you to be committed to them and their well-being. Keep your interactions focused solely on the children’s best interests. Whatever you do, resist the urge to discuss anything of a personal disaster. This can quickly sabotage any progress you are making.
6. Listen to One Another
Non-communication, one way or another, was likely the downfall of your relationship. Don’t let it be the downfall of your kids’ perception of their parents’ concern for them as well. Listen respectfully to the input each person has to bring to the table and consider it from an honest viewpoint of whether or not it will serve the children’s needs for security, discipline and a healthy home environment. This will require patience and a good deal of maturity, but it will pay off in the long run and will no doubt benefit your child down the road.
7. Be Firm, Fair and Consistent
If you and your ex have agreed to certain rules or a specific schedule the kids need to adhere to because of school, extracurricular activities or social interactions such as play dates or dances, it is up to both of you to maintain that schedule consistently. This eliminates the idea of one parent as the good or bad guy and shows you’re both equally committed to the agreement you’ve made.
Being a co-parent with your ex isn’t easy, and can sometimes be a very frustrating effort. However, it is possible to produce an amicable, reasonable set of rules both of you can agree to. By following these simple tips, you can lay the groundwork for a relationship with your children and your ex that is fair to everyone involved, especially your children.