Handling Post-Divorce Co-Parenting
Divorce is rarely an easy process for any couple or family. At best, it’s a somber and painful separation between two individuals that have mutually decided to part ways amicably. At worst, it can be nothing short of a war of wills that manifests itself in the ugliest manner possible.
All too often, children find themselves in the unfortunate position of being at the mercy of their parents’ ability to develop a co-parenting plan that satiates both parties and adequately meets their needs. This article will specifically deal with how to effectively interact with your children in the immediate aftermath of the divorce.
1. Avoid Competition
One of the most harmful, yet sadly frequent things that newly divorced parents do is compete over children. This can take form by: unnecessarily rewarding the children to seem like the ‘better parent’, blaming the other parent for certain circumstances, refusing to make reasonable accommodations when it comes to joint-custody arrangements etc.
Your anger is understandable; however, your children may be too young to understand it. Competing with the other parent of your children confuses them and puts them in the tough position of having to ‘pick sides’. While you may not agree that your partner was the best spouse, alienating them for the sake of personal satisfaction will ultimately undermine the children’s growth and development.1
2. Speak No Evil
Although this seems intuitive, it is important to remember, especially when your children have reported some negative feedback about you that they heard from the other parent. Divorce can be ugly and, as a result, you can’t always guarantee your partner will handle the situation with the poise that you will. However, you can avoid fanning the flames by calmly and stoically denying any harmful or false images painted of you and refusing to respond. One thing that can really undermine the cohesiveness of a co-parenting situation is if both parents use their children as an intermediary party to relay negative messages and gossip about each other.
3. Be Reasonable
One of the most difficult aspects of co-parenting is accommodating a recently divorced spouse that you’re on bad terms with. As mentioned in tip #1, your initial instinct may be to deny them any concessions, even at the cost of depriving your children the relationship they deserve with that parent. However, realize that you are ultimately punishing your children in a much greater way than you could ever punish your ex-spouse.2 Remind yourself that the inherent benefit of your children’s prosperity, mental wellbeing, and development must take precedence over any feelings of animosity and angst you may hold towards their other parent.
4. Explain the Situation to Your Children
Explaining the divorce itself and how things will work moving forward is one of the toughest responsibilities of the process. But it is important to explain to your children exactly what is going on. This not only allows you to field any questions that the children may have and put to bed some of their false ideas and misconceptions, it facilitates the co-parenting process as well.
This is something that would be much more effective if done with your ex-spouse, if you are on amicable enough terms to do so. By informing your children of your decision together as a unit, you’ll establish the sense of stability that they desperately crave in this tumultuous period.
In addition, it will hold both parents more accountable to stand behind their words since they have both set the ‘ground rules’, so to speak, in front of the entire family. It also eases the co-parenting process significantly by helping your children understand that, despite the fact you’ve romantically split with your partner, there has been no diminution of any one parent’s role(s).