Co-parenting is one of the issues that I regularly see divorced or never-married parents struggle with. All to often parents allow the raw, negative emotions of the divorce to bleed into parenting issues. This blurring of the lines between the divorce and the parenting world creates an uncertain and uncomfortable environment for children. To avoid letting a divorce or custody matter affect your child, you should keep the following five C’s in mind.
A failure to properly and effectively communicate is probably the most common cause for co-parenting issues. Simple communication is key to the co-parenting relationship so that the other parent does not feel left out or blindsided by information. The other parent should always be made aware of events, issues, and important information. Whether you like it or not, a quick, short email detailing some basic information will do wonders for the co-parenting relationship. It is also important to point out that this communication should be effective, meaning it should not be pithy or passive aggressive. The tone of all communication should, at the very lease, be cordial and business-like.
Coordination goes hand-in-hand with communication. Without coordination the co-parenting relationship becomes chaos. Parents should make sure that they know each other’s calendars so as not to inadvertently create an unnecessary conflict. While it may be difficult to effectively communicate, it is a good idea to try and coordinate calendars and schedules at least once a month.
While it goes without saying that separated parents do not see eye-to-eye, it is important for parents to cooperate when it comes to children. In the co-parenting context, cooperation is essential for matters of activities, schoolwork, and discipline. Not only will cooperation make co-parenting easier, it will provide your child with much needed consistency.
Children need consistency, especially after a divorce or custody battle. As such, it is important for separated parents to try and make both households similar. That is, as discussed above, both parents should try to cooperate to provide similar expectations for their children. All too often I have clients tell me that, “the kids say they get to do X at Dad’s house,” or “the kids say they don’t have to do X at Mom’s house.” Not only will this will make the co-parenting relationship much more difficult, it will create serious consistency problems for the child.
- Children First
Every parent likes to think that they put their children before anything else. And, for the most part, this is true. It is common, however, for separated parents to allow their anger at the other parent to get in the way of truly putting their children first. Many times, a parent does not even notice that they are allowing their anger to interfere with their parenting. Rather, they think that by contradicting or speaking poorly about the other parent they are doing something good for their child. With this in mind, it is important to stop and really think whether sending that angry text message or speaking poorly about the other parent in front of the child is going to be good for the child. Regardless of your thoughts about the other parent, you must remember that they are your child’s parent and your child loves them very much and your hostile words will do more damage to your child than it will to the other parent.