If you and your spouse have made the difficult decision to end your marriage, you can choose to go your separate ways and never see each other again once the divorce is final. However, if you have children, and you and your ex-spouse share custody, you will remain connected to each other at least until the children turn 18. Co-parenting can certainly be difficult, particularly if you and your spouse did not have an amicable divorce. However, if you are able to set your differences aside, and focus on what is best for the children, you can be the co-parents that your children deserve. Your family may no longer be living under the same roof, but you and your ex can still raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted children by working together as a team and following these simple co-parenting strategies.
What Is Co-Parenting?
Essentially, co-parenting is a child custody agreement where both parents work together to share the parenting responsibilities, even though they are no longer living in the same home. The ultimate goal of co-parenting is to put the needs of the children first, and to create a stable and consistent environment in both homes. The key to a successful co-parenting relationship is to communicate regularly, make important decisions together and stay focused on what is best for the children. When both parents are able to co-parent in a way that is mature and respectful, the children are more likely to feel safe, secure and loved.
What Are Some Effective Co-Parenting Tips?
Co-parenting is not always easy, particularly if you and your former spouse disagreed about most things while you were married. However, even couples who are going through a bitter divorce can agree that their children’s needs should be a top priority. The following are some co-parenting strategies that you and your ex-spouse can keep in mind when coming up with the co-parenting plan that works best for you and your family:
- Keep the lines of communication open. It is imperative that you and your ex keep each other in the loop about any schedule changes or issues that may arise in both of your lives. If it is difficult for you to speak in person or on the phone, send regular emails or text messages to make changes to the schedule, or to communicate important information about your children.
- Present a united front. It is vital that you and your ex are on the same page when it comes to important issues. If your children see that you are in agreement about the important rules of the house, they will be more likely to follow them and not try to pit one parent against the other.
- Create a written schedule of the children’s activities. It benefits everyone involved if both parents stick to an agreed-upon schedule. This makes transitions like drop-offs and pick-ups much more manageable. Create a calendar that has everyone’s activities scheduled, so both parents can access it and plan accordingly. If a scheduling conflict arises, this should be discussed with the other parent and the calendar should be updated.
- Be flexible. As any parent knows, things do not always go according to plan, so both parents must be flexible when it comes to their co-parenting plan. Plans change, something at the last minute, and this can be frustrating, particularly if it is your ex who is changing the schedule. However, unless the change is going to negatively impact the children, it is in your and your children’s best interest if you can be flexible and handle the disruption as calmly and maturely as possible. Accept the disruption and move on.
- Be prepared with a back-up plan. If you and your ex are unable to care for the children for some reason, have a back-up plan in place so that you are not scrambling at the last minute. For example, if you and your ex both work full-time, and one of the children has to stay home from school because he or she is sick, arrange for a relative or a close friend to be available to stay with your child until one of you gets home from work.
- Learn how to manage different parenting styles. Co-parenting can be particularly challenging if you and your ex have different approaches to parenting. As frustrating as it is to disagree on certain aspects of parenting, if your ex’s parenting style is having a positive impact on the children, and is not hurting them in any way, it is okay to have different parenting styles. Do not let this get in the way of a productive co-parenting arrangement. Choose your sticking points carefully.
- Address disagreements in private. Whether your divorce was amicable or contentious, there may be moments where you and your ex disagree. When this happens, do not get into an argument about it in front of the children. If you cannot discuss the issue calmly and respectfully, resolve the issue in private, away from the children. However, if you are able to resolve the conflict productively, and in a way that supports the children, this can be an opportunity to show the kids that they are the top priority and that you are able to handle conflicts without fighting.
- Do not badmouth your ex-spouse. Never speak negatively about your ex to your children. This teaches your children that they can be disrespectful to your ex during their time with him or her. It also makes children feel that they need to take sides. You may be totally justified in feeling the way you do about your ex. However, if you need to vent about something your ex did, or how he or she disrespected you while you were married, talk to a therapist, a counselor, or a friend.
- Attend children’s events. You and your ex should be able to set aside your differences and attend every sporting event, music recital and play to support your children together. This shows your child that he or she is more important to you than whatever differences you and your ex may have. You do not have to sit together, but do not avoid attending just because you do not want to see your ex.
- Do not put your children in the middle. Never use the children as a bargaining chip, or to send messages to your ex. This puts them in the middle of your conflict, which is extremely stressful for a child.
How Does Successful Co-Parenting Benefit the Children?
Clearly, if you and your ex are able to communicate and interact in a way that prioritizes your children’s best interests, it will make the co-parenting much easier. It will also benefit the children in a number of ways, including:
- Instilling a sense of security. When both parents treat each other with respect, and create a stable, loving home for the children, they are able to adjust more quickly and easily to the divorce.
- Giving the children an example of good problem solving. When parents set a good example of how to effectively solve problems without resorting to fighting, the children learn how to resolve issues peacefully and effectively as well.
- Benefitting from consistency. When parents divorce, it completely disrupts the children’s lives, particularly when the parents share custody and the children are juggling their time between both parents’ houses. By establishing a clear set of rules and routines at each household, the children know what to expect, and what is expected of them. A consistent routine can be extremely comforting after the turmoil of a divorce.
- Helping them to be mentally and emotionally stronger. Children who are exposed to ongoing conflict are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, ADHD and other mental and emotional issues. Parents who have a successful and effective co-parenting strategy, and who prioritize their children’s needs are better able to protect their children’s physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Mendham Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Help Clients Implement Effective Co-Parenting Strategies
If you and your former spouse are interested in establishing a co-parenting plan that prioritizes the children’s needs and helps avoid unnecessary conflict, do not hesitate to contact our Mendham divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. We will assist you with every step of the divorce process and discuss co-parenting strategies that will help make the transition as smooth as possible for the whole family. Our dedicated legal team will address all of your questions and concerns, and ensure that your legal rights are protected throughout the entire process. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 908-575-9777 or contact us online.