Parents who are starting a separation or even parents who have finalized their divorce often find co-parenting to be the hardest part of the uncharted territory that lie ahead. It is new and difficult and there are many differing opinions involved, whether that be a new stepparent or significant other or just the differing opinions of the parents.
It is absolutely necessary for your own wellbeing and, in your child’s best interest that you develop healthy co-parenting techniques right off the bat.
As a family law attorney, this is the area that is most difficult for separated parents to navigate. Not only will co-parenting make your dissolution case before the Court easier and more peaceful for you, but children also thrive in a stable, peaceful environment where both parents are on the same team. Children often feel torn between their two parents and living two separate lives.
In order to co-parent, both parents need to develop certain skills.
Communicate Calmly and Effectively:
This is a huge struggle in the realm of family law. Often the Courts will order an app for parents to communicate through such as Talking Parents or Our Family Wizard. These Court orders can be avoided if parents can openly and productively communicate with each other. Marriages often fall apart from poor communication, so establishing healthy ways to communicate and using many channels is key. Being able to speak to the other parent through text, phone calls, email, and even face to face will create the ability to work through the challenges of being separate and keeping one goal in mind – their children’s health and well-being. Parents should communicate directly and keep all discussions out of ear’s reach of the children. Do not use phrases like, “tell your dad that…” Speak to the parent directly and in a calm manner when it relates to the children’s needs/wants.
Be Mindful and Disagree Privately:
Be mindful… especially in the way you speak of the other parent when discussing parenting time. Often parents do not realize their word choices – whether purposefully or on accident – will paint a picture in your child’s head of their time they share with the other parent. Be mindful of the way you phrase questions when speaking to your children. For example, if you ask, “were you safe at your dads?” or “was your dad, okay?” will give the children the idea that maybe the situation they were in was not safe or their dad wasn’t okay, but in reality, they had a great time with the other parent. Phrase questions in a positive light about the other parent like “did you have a great time at dads?”
Second, disagree and vent in private. Sometimes we need to discuss the frustrations of the other parent or verbalize a disagreement we were in regarding the child’s custody and visitation. That’s okay. However, it needs to be done when during the other person’s parenting time and you can ensure the children will not hear you verbalize those frustrations. If you need to speak to the other parent about a disagreement, do this privately. Do not include your children in disagreements as this will affect their thoughts and feelings regarding you and your ex-partner.
Share in the daily life and struggles of parenting:
Lastly, one of the largest disagreements aside from communicating ineffectively, is the other parent being the “fun” parent while you are left to struggle with homework, extracurricular schedules, transportation, and chores. Both parents should find a balance of fun and exciting memory making with their children, while still molding them into responsible young humans. Chores and homework are an important daily part of your child’s life that both parents should partake in. Remembering the struggles and the mundane of the other parent during their parenting time will create a better co-parent in you.
Overall, this new territory you have found yourself in as a single parent attempting to navigate the waters of co-parenting effectively, is all about your children. What is best for your children and in their best interest is your top priority. It is time to put all past struggles aside with your co-parent and move forward with respect and courtesy and find a new relationship of trust and working together.