We all know the statistics. Over 50% of all marriages end in divorce and more than 60% of all remarriages do the same. We all assume our marriages start off on the right foot then over time, for whatever reason, the issues consume us and eventually sink our marriages. Further, most couples end up in divorce court because they wait until it is too late to get the help they need in order to save it. The feelings of resentment creep in and the couple becomes detached from one another. Unfortunately, during this time, the silent partners in the relationship, the children, suffer the most. With that being said, there still is hope. I know many divorced couples that are able to put their pe rsonal feelings and resentments aside for the betterment of their children and have become amazing co-parents.
When talking to my clients who are experiencing co-parent issues, the first piece of advice I like to give them is that they need to look at their situation through the eyes and perspective of their children. Children look to their parents for their stability and support both physically and emotionally. If you two are a mess, they will be more than a mess. You can be great co-parents as long as you develop a good business relationship aside from your divorce. That seems odd for most people to hear. A business relationship? Yes, raising healthy and stable children is meticulous. Remember, your past marriage and your current parenting take different skill sets. Therefore, after divorce, your feelings about your marriage need to be put aside. Like in business, in healthy and effective co-parenting, there has to be strong commitment. Most of you will say, ”well that’s easy….they’re my children, of course I will be committed.” Well, I am here to tell you that when divorce is fresh, new and you are still hurting, a lot of times, that commitment to healthy co-parenting is the last thing on some folks’ mind. I find it amazing that when a couple is married they agree on how they are going to parent their children ”together” but when divorce creeps in, they ultimately decide that must change and their parenting has to become a battle. Seriously TMF readers, I have seen it on many occasions and most parents are in denial about it. I’ll give you the following examples of same:
- Ignoring phone calls or messages when the child is in your custody.
- Common courtesy calls no longer exist (i.e., when the child is sick in your custody, you don’t inform the other parent).
- Disparagement of the other parent occurs when the children are present.
- Notice is not given about parent/teacher conferences or events until the last minute and the other parent is not able to attend or is not notified at all.
- Use your children to relay messages to the other parent.
- Discipline that one parent instituted is disregarded when the child is in your possession.
Friends, there is no rule that states that after divorce you can’t get along with your ex spouse, especially in order to co-parent your children. Being able to co-parent effectively lessens the chance that your children will be caught in the cross-fire because of unresolved issues. This is where I say your co-parenting relationship has to become a business relationship. The children you created together deserve to watch you and learn and have stability. If parents are able to realize that it’s okay to see past their own feelings in order to accomplish this for their children, they will be on their way to becoming amazing co-parents. Remember, you both have things to teach your children and you have to “love” your children more than you “hate or dislike” each other during the process. Here are a few tips to get you on your way:
- Back one another up on decisions. If your ex has disciplined your child and your weekend or Spring break has come up, stick with the instituted discipline. If you falter on this issue, your children will always know they can play two ends to the middle.
- Major decisions regarding your children should always be made by both parents.
- Respect, respect, respect. DEMAND IT for both parents.
- Communication is critical.
- Our children’s feelings come first before ours.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. You and your ex are different. Neither of you may not always understand the others reasoning for things. Try not to sweat the small stuff. Most of the time, it’s not worth an argument.
- No parent-playing allowed. Children are good at getting one parent or the other to “side” with them. Communication is key with this issue. Parents have to talk. All children play their parents from time-to-time and when they are teens, it usually gets worse. Your children should know that you trust the parenting skills of the other parent at all times. This alleviates this issue 90% of the time.
- Keep the grown up issues between the two grown ups. Speaking in an ill manner in front of your children will only create insecure children. Don’t disparage. It’s not worth the damage it causes. Remember, your children are part of the other parent just as they are a part of you. When you disparage, they take that as an insult to them, whether they show it or not. They love both of you.
- Encourage each other. Yes, not only is it possible, it is healthy for your children. When the both of you are trying hard to co-parent effectively, appreciate one anothers efforts.
TMF readers, your children are watching you. I cannot stress this enough. Keeping your focus on your children after divorce sometimes means you have to be the bigger person when conflict arises. By being able to co-parent effectively, you are not just showing your children that their mental, physical and emotional health means the world to you but you are teaching them how to handle conflict themselves which will serve them well in the future.
Peace & Blessings,