Coparenting: 7 Success Strategies After Divorce
Helpful advice for divorced parents to protect their children from painful consequences of divorce.
Divorce affects every child differently. However, all children of divorce do best when both parents stay actively involved in their lives. This continuing connection makes a positive difference for children of all ages—even teens—minimizing the fact that their parents no longer live together.
That’s why coparenting is so universally encouraged after divorce as a significant way to reduce the long-term emotional impact on children. Coparenting styles and arrangements can differ widely from family to family to suit their individual needs. However, most all professionals agree that coparenting will only succeed if some basic agreements are made and kept, and significant mistakes are avoided. Here are some good rules to follow:
1. Give your child personal time with both parents.
Children handle the challenges that come with divorce and disruption of the family dynamic when you give them as much time as possible with both you and your ex. Your child will thank you, have fewer behavioral problems, and grow up happier and emotionally healthier when you honor their love for both of their parents.
2. Keep your child away from parental conflict & disagreements.
Fighting around your kids is a path to disaster. Be a positive role model for your child by exhibiting mature behavior. If you have issues, gripes, or reason for angry words with your coparent, plan a private time alone, far from your child’s eyes and ears, for those conversations. The consequences when you do otherwise will be significant and long-lasting.
3. Seek out an adult confidant—not your kids!
It’s hard enough for adults to unravel the complex emotions connected to divorce. Think of how unfair it is to expect your child to bear those burdens on your behalf. You rob your kids of their childhood when you confide or share your feelings about your ex with them—especially when you’re trying to influence them in your direction. Need to rant and vent about your ex? Do it with a friend—or better yet, a professional with an objective ear and valuable advice.
4. Send direct messages—without involving your kids!
When you have issues with your coparent, discuss them directly, not through your children. Kids can not only confuse messages, they can also intentionally change the messages due to guilt, anxiety, fear, resentment and other emotions related to protecting one or both parents. Asking children to be your messenger is a big coparenting no-no. I highly recommend using one of the online scheduling tools now available, as a good resource for posting all coparenting details on a daily basis. It reduces errors and conflict and keeps the kids out of parenting issues.
5. Parent as part of a “parenting team” despite the divorce.
Think like a coparent. When you were married you were one of two parents. You still are. When parenting issues come up, ask yourself what would I do as a parent if I weren’t divorced? If that still makes sense, respond accordingly. You’re a parent first and a divorcee second. Coparents who continue parenting as a team create an easier transition and better post-divorce adjustments for their child.
6. Be flexible and cooperative whenever possible.
Whenever you bend, go with the flow, compromise and cooperate with your coparent you model the kind of behaviors that benefit both of you in the long-term. Flexibility reduces defensiveness and builds bridges toward better parenting solutions. Remember, every time you forgive and indulge irritating behavior without creating a coparenting issue, you are ultimately making life easier for your child. Isn’t he or she worth it?
7. Be inclusive with your coparent whenever there’s a choice.
Even when you are the primary residential parent, that doesn’t mean your ex can’t be included in special occasion celebrations, school activities, sports, birthdays, and other events in your child’s life. Think about how pleased your child will be having both Mom and Dad on hand to enjoy those significant moments. When it makes sense for both parents to be together on behalf of your child, be cordial and mature. This lifts an enormous weight off your child’s shoulders. They’ll thank you when they are grown.
Sometimes it helps to think about coparenting as a business relationship that has to work because your child is the beneficiary. You make accommodations on behalf of your coparent/partner for the higher cause of business success. This can be a valuable perspective for coparents after divorce. When you put all your efforts into successful coparenting, your child reaps the rewards. Isn’t that a bottom line result worth your commitment and attention?
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? She is also the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. To get Rosalind’s free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies For Getting It Right! as well as her international coaching services and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, visit her website here.