If you've been through or are in the midst of facing a divorce, by now you understand the difficulty that comes with the process. Unfortunately, those with children have long-term effects with the decisions of co-parenting.
Co-parents are defined as the legal guardians/ parents of a child. Whatever situation your divorce has put you in, it's important to follow a few guidelines when moving forward to save time, energy, and money spent on future mediation.
1. No matter what, it's all about the kid's best interest.
Divorced parents frequently fail to recognize the importance of the other parent present in their kid's life. Even if your ex is incompetent or unreliable, it is better that the child realize this on their own rather than be sheltered from it.
Otherwise, the child will likely imagine their other parent as a figure they can idolize or escape to when such fantasies can lead to severe harm.
- The rules should be the same in both households.
The differences in parenting are one of the most common issues which lead to divorce. To keep things civil as possible, general expectations for the child should be congruent.
- Be respectful.
- Be kind.
- Be patient.
This puts basic standards into practice which give the child a sense of consistency without allowing too much room for co-parents to bicker over different rules.
- Plan ahead to eliminate confusion or miscommunication.
To reduce frustration and unending questions from children about their schedule with you and their other parents, have an annual calendar with the days clearly marked as to where the child is staying. This should be in both parents' homes. Now both parties are involved with constant access to all information ahead of time.
- Communicate with the co-parent via the internet.
In order to avoid conflict, parents should keep verbal communication to a minimum. There are several online co-parenting websites such as www.ourfamilywizard.com which allows all communication to be recorded. This helps with future mediated issues and can help make information clear and concise.
- Keep your kids out of the middle of anything relating to the divorce.
Kids are a product of both parents and, because of this, they can't divide themselves in two. Let your children be open about their experience with the other parent and share it with you.
- Avoid encouraging false hope in your children.
Parents should not confuse kids by letting them believe that there's a possibility their parents will reunite.
- All kids already secretly want this because divorce leaves them feeling split in half.
- In their reality, a reunion between their parents will solve everything.
Giving kids false hope not only feeds this unrealistic fantasy but also backfires on the parent making the claims.
- Distrust of the parent
- Be honest with your child.
Depending on the age of the child and the nature of the divorce, eventually, all kids want to know why their parents separated.
- Parents shouldn't lie or avoid the conversations.
- Answer only the question that the child asked in its simplest form.
- Blame should never be assigned in front of the child.
As a child ages, more information can be carefully given but only if they ask for it. It is also necessary to reinforce the notion that the divorce had nothing to do with anything the child did or did not do. This practice helps relieve any unseen guilt and med deteriorating relationships between the child and their parent.
- Be cautious of who is introduced to the child.
One or both parents will move forward with life and begin to date again. However, this process is for adults only and not for children.
- Kids can latch onto an adult very easily, especially when that adult is presented as safe and inviting.
- If the relationship deteriorates the child will have a hard time disconnecting with the new person. Resulting sometimes like a mini-divorce.
When the adult relationship becomes serious, introduce the new partner as a friend first to ensure compatibility.
- Step-parents are assistant parents.
The word step-parent can carry a negative connotation. The name is also not role-specific and leads to confusion over the boundaries of parenting.
- Use the word assistant parent.
- Immediately identifies the new partner's role is part of the family unit.
- The assistant parent does not make parenting decisions, the legal parent does.
- Assistant parent helps enforce those decisions.
- Act like an adult.
There will be many times in the child's life that both parents, assistant parents, new siblings, and extended family will have to present at the same time. Parents should make a decision ahead of time to act professionally in front of the other parent for the sake of their child and family.
All of the above are great ways to lead by example as a parent and create positive guidelines that are also essential for other relationships in the child's future. Parents who treat co-parenting as a valuable life lesson will reap the benefits of a healthy adult relationship later, and a happier, healthier child. Read the full article by Christine Hammond at Psych Central Professional to ensure you're making the best decisions as a co-parent.
To learn more about co-parenting, the best options for co-parents, and your rights as a co-parent contact David Veliz at Veliz Katz Law.