A significant percentage of divorces involve children. Children can be affected by divorce, but there are steps parents can take to help them adjust. Research shows that a successful co-parenting partnership between the parents can provide the stability and consistency that children need to develop and thrive after their parents divorce.
Co-parenting is where both parents assume joint responsibility for the upbringing of their child, even though they are no longer married or together. While the concept of co-parenting is simple, it is not always easy to execute. There are a range of challenges that divorced parents may face as they navigate the co-parenting process. If you are going through a divorce and require legal assistance, including custody issues, do not hesitate to contact a lawyer.
The following are examples of co-parenting issues that frequently arise between divorced parents.
Resentment Toward a Former Partner
This is certainly common among divorced couples. However, it is up to the parents to put their feelings aside and focus on what is best for the children. Never argue or badmouth the other parent in front of the children, as this can backfire in a number of ways. When children hear one parent bad mouthing the other parent, they are put in a position of either agreeing with the parent who is criticizing or defending the parent who is being criticized. Either way, the child may feel pressure to align themselves with one parent.
Lack of Consistency
Developing an effective co-parenting schedule that maintains as much consistency as possible should be a top priority. The children’s lives should be disrupted as little as possible. The tasks like homework, and carpooling to activities and doctor’s appointments should not fall on one parent. They should be shared evenly. In addition, common routines like bedtime, dinner time, when the children do their homework and the general rules of the house should be consistent at both parents’ homes.
Showing Up Late
Unexpected circumstances may cause a parent to arrive late for pick-up or drop-off. However, if this becomes a common problem, it is disrespectful to the other parent and creates a stressful environment for the child. Some parents resort to this passive-aggressive behavior as a way to control the other parent’s behavior or punish them for something they did in the past.
Concern About Children’s Safety
It is natural to worry about your children when they are not with you. However, obsessing about what your child is doing for the entire time they are with your ex-spouse does not do you or your child any good. The only exception would be if you believe that your children’s health or safety is in question. For example, if your ex-spouse has a history of domestic violence, your fears may be warranted, and this issue should be addressed immediately.
Competition Between Parents
This is a common problem between divorced parents. If one parent thinks that the children are spending more time with the other parent or is trying to win the children’s affection by buying more gifts, it can create co-parenting problems. While children certainly enjoy getting gifts, what they really want and need is their parents’ love and attention.
Using the Children as Messengers
Oftentimes, parents are unable to communicate effectively with one another so they ask their child to pass along information. Rather than protecting your children from your own personal issues, this exposes them to your ongoing conflict.
Introducing Step-Partners to Children
According to child psychologists, when a step-parent comes into a child’s life, it is common for them to feel resentment, and they may blame the step-parent for the divorce. If one or both parents have a new partner who they want to introduce to the children, it is highly recommended that they sit down with the children and have an open, honest conversation about the relationship.
It is important to encourage the children to ask questions or express their feelings about the role of the step-parent. You should establish boundaries and be patient. You cannot expect children to be accepting of a new step-parent right away.
If your ex-spouse needs to make a last-minute schedule change, before getting angry and frustrated, think about how the schedule change affects the child. For example, if your ex-spouse was given free tickets to see a concert and the performer is your child’s favorite artist, consider being flexible about the schedule. However, if your ex-partner makes a habit of last-minute schedule changes due to work or other circumstances that are avoidable, this is not fair to you or them.
This is another common issue, particularly if you were the children’s primary caregiver prior to the divorce. When a custody arrangement has been agreed upon, you should focus on the time that you have with the children.
Listening Without Judgment
It can be difficult to listen to your child talk about their experiences with your former spouse, particularly if they have a new partner. However, as difficult as it may be, be open and accepting about your child’s experiences.
If your child thinks that they cannot talk to you without you judging or criticizing your ex-spouse, it can create a very stressful environment. In addition, your children may feel that they cannot talk to you about important issues.
How Can I Overcome Co-Parenting Challenges?
Parents who successfully co-parent are able to focus on the needs of their children rather than their own issues. While this may be easier said than done, the following are some effective strategies that can help parents overcome the challenges associated with co-parenting:
- The children’s needs are the priority. Parents should not stray from this goal, particularly when they are making difficult decisions that will impact the children.
- Establish a foundation built on trust. This can be difficult, particularly if the divorce was due to infidelity. However, if you are able to focus on building a foundation of consistency, reliability, and predictability, you may be able to rebuild the trust that was lost. This is key to having a successful co-parenting relationship.
- Let go of the past. Focus on the present and how you can make co-parenting as successful as possible for your children’s sake, rather than dwell on the past problems that contributed to your divorce.
- Do not be afraid of co-parenting. While you and your ex-spouse may have ended your marriage, you are going to be a part of each other’s lives until your children are grown. That means there will likely be many times when you will have to resolve conflicts, make adjustments to the co-parenting arrangement, and continue to have important conversations about your children’s health and happiness. Do not be afraid to have tough conversations. Stay calm and focus on what is best for your children.
- Improve your communication skills. The key to successful co-parenting is communication. It is important for both parents to recognize their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to communicating. For example, if you tend to become easily defensive or passive aggressive when communicating with your former spouse, be aware of those shortcomings and find strategies that will help you be a more effective communicator. In some cases, it may not be what you say that is the problem, but how you say it and the tone that you use.
- Find solutions rather than seeking punishments. When a conversation turns into an argument, it can quickly devolve into a blame game, which is not productive. Instead of blaming one another, try to resolve the conflict based on what is best for your children. Be open to suggestions and possibilities that you may not have considered.
- Find effective stress-relieving methods. Stress and anger are common emotions that people feel during conflict. Rather than reacting in a negative way, practice stress relieving methods, like medication, taking a walk, having a cup of tea, or taking a hot bath.
Morristown Child Custody Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Assist Clients With Co-Parenting and Custody Matters
If you are going through a divorce and have co-parenting or custody concerns, do not hesitate to contact our Morristown child custody lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Our compassionate legal team will protect your parental rights. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.