Co-Parenting Children of Divorce: Tips for Parents
One of the hardest parts of a divorce is trying to end all communications with your spouse and not being able to because you have minor children. There is hope for some parents, that divorce may just be the change needed to finally co-parent in a productive way. For those of you recently divorced, or in the middle of the process, pay attention to your agreements or the proposed parenting plans on the table for discussion. Your communication style now may not be the same communication style several months or even years from now. Consider your spouse will continue to be difficult for some time after the divorce, and make sure you put provisions in your parenting plan that will protect you in the future.
In the meantime, prepare to cope with the various trials and tribulations of co-parenting with the following suggestions, remembering you cannot change the other parent. Words of wisdom to live by: You cannot control the other parent’s behavior or thoughts, you can only control how you will respond. Based on that philosophy, here are five tips you may consider using to improve your co-parenting relationship that are completely within your control.
1. ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES
Communication changes when you divorce or are in the process of divorcing. The way you communicated during your marriage may no longer be appropriate in this new dynamic. During the divorce, you might have shifted your routine responsibilities to the other parent, or been given additional parenting duties you never before had to deal with. These additional responsibilities coupled with a new way to communicate may be ripe for conflict, which is why you need to establish healthy boundaries early on. You may want to consider the pick- up and drop off locations for the child, coordinating the times of pick-ups and drop offs, dealing with conflicts in schedules, and the access the other parent has to your new residence. These boundaries may be difficult to establish at first, but you must be patient and clear about what will work for you during these times of transition.
2. CONSIDER YOUR CHILD'S PERSPECTIVE
The saying goes that the only person who is truly impacted in a divorce is the child. Practitioners see it every day and it is truly heartbreaking. When you are faced with a situation that upsets you, consider the child’s perspective on your reaction first before reacting. You may want to scream, curse, and tell the other parent to go fly a kite, but co-parenting is the job that never ends until the child reaches the age of majority. Remembering that children simply want to feel loved, safe, and to spend time with both of their parents, may help remind you of the important role you play in providing that safe and loving environment for your child. No matter how much you struggle with your ex, your child should be the top priority.
3. RELINQUISH CONTROL AND ACCEPT CHANGE
The difference in parenting styles may be the biggest stressor in a marriage, and the biggest stressor after the divorce. You will most likely not approve of all of the parenting decisions made by the other parent, and that is okay. You also may not enjoy the other parent’s new boyfriend or girlfriend, and believe it or not, that is okay too. The reality for co-parenting after or during a divorce is that your opinions generally matter only when there is a dangerous, abusive, or neglectful situation occurring. If there is not a dangerous situation going on, you will want to consider working with the situation as best as you can. Over-analyzing situations you cannot control will only cause you unnecessary stress and even stress on the child, so consider speaking with a therapist if you have trouble accepting all of these changes.
4. STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF
No matter how stressed, frustrated, or angry you might feel about your ex, remember that you can only stay true to yourself and your child. Try as much as is humanly possible to refrain from name-calling, pointing fingers, and yelling at your ex. Your goal in co-parenting is not to “dump” all of your frustrations on the other parent—trust me they probably have just as many complaints about you. Remember that your communications to the other parent can be used against you in future modifications in the parenting plan, or other contempt actions. Do not make your communications cost you unnecessary attorneys fees and costs and learn how to rise about the conflict for the sake of your child.
5. KEEP CO-PARENTING RECORDS
Many clients are so stressed after a divorce, they want to put the concepts they learned during litigation far outside of their everyday thoughts. The parents assume someone else is keeping their child support records, they assume they no longer need to keep a time-sharing calendar anymore. When you are divorced, or going through the process, you need to keep a record of what is occurring with the time-sharing, keep records of the payments for uncovered medical expenses and extra-curricular activities, and child support. You can move on from the divorce but still maintain records, and quite frankly it is what you should be doing to protect you from unnecessary litigation in the future.
Brusca Law strives to give our clients the tools they need to help them through the difficult times of divorce. Call us today at 407-501-6564 for more information about co-parenting, and what you can do about a former spouse that cannot co-parent in a productive way.