By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
When you’re a parent, divorce doesn’t end your relationship with your former spouse. It only changes the form in some specific ways. It is still essential to create a working relationship focused on the optimum care and concern for your children. Every co-parenting relationship will be unique, affected by your post-divorce family dynamics. However, there are guidelines that will enhance the results for children in any family. Here are some crucial points to keep in mind to maximize your co-parenting success.
- Respect your co-parent’s boundaries:
Chances are your former spouse has a different parenting style than you, with some conflicting rules. Rather than stress yourself about these differences, learn to accept reality. Life is never consistent and it may actually be beneficial for your kids to experience other ways of doing things. Step back from micro-managing your co-parent’s life. Put yourself in your co-parent’s shoes before judging them. Perhaps their perspective isn’t so obtuse after all. If the kids aren’t in harm’s way, let go. Focus on only the most serious issues before you take a stand.
- Create routine co-parent check-ins:
The more co-parents communicate with one another about the children, the less likely for small issues to grow into major problems. Select days/times for phone, email or in-person visits. Use online scheduling tools designed for co-parenting. Discuss in advance visitation transfer agreements. List who’s responsible for what each day, week or month. Food, homework, curfews, health issues, allowances, school transportation, sport activities, play dates, holiday plans and more should be clearly agreed upon in advance. Conflicting issues should be scheduled for further discussion. Once you have a clear parenting plan structured – follow it to the best of your ability. But allow for last-minute changes and special “favors” to facilitate cooperation.
- Encourage your child’s co-parent relationship:
Regardless of your personal feelings about your ex, your children need a healthy connection with their other parent. Keep snide comments to yourself. Don’t discuss your parenting frustrations with your children. Encourage your kids to maintain a caring, respectful relationship with their other parent. Remind them about their parent’s birthday and holiday gifts. Make time in the weekly schedule for phone calls, cards, video calls, text and notes to keep the children’s connection alive when your co-parent is at a distance. Your kids will thank you when they grow up.
- Be compassionate with your in-laws:
Remember that a Grandparent’s love doesn’t stop after divorce. If your children had a healthy bond with your former spouse’s extended family, don’t punish them by severing that connection. Children thrive on family attachments, holiday get-togethers and traditions they’ve come to love. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins can be a great source of comfort to children during stressful times. It’s also a sense of continuity with the past. Dissolving those relationships is hurtful to both your children and the other family. Think long and hard before making such an emotionally damaging decision.
- Maintain your team spirit:
Above all, be flexible. If you allow calls from your co-parent when the kids are in your home, they will be more receptive to your calls when the tables are turned. Remember, you are still a parenting team working on behalf of your children. That commonality should enable you to overlook the thorns in your co-parenting relationship. You can then focus on the flowering buds that are the wonderful children you are raising. Your kids are worth the effort it takes to maintain an effective co-parenting relationship!
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — With Love! Her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right! as well as her blog, coaching services and other valuable resources for parents facing, moving through or transitioning after divorce can be found at: www.childcentereddivorce.com.
© Rosalind Sedacca All rights reserved.