In the first part of this article, we discussed the initial challenges of co-parenting; specifically, communicating the context of the divorce to your children. Because a high-conflict divorce can have negative impacts on a child, including delayed adjustment, strained parent-child relationships, anxiety, and negative coping strategies such as substance abuse, it is crucial for parents to combat these outcomes with long-term collaborative strategies made in the best interest of their children.
Whether you like it or not, successful co-parenting following a divorce requires both parents to engage in joint decision making, cooperation, and communication; if you shoot for geniality and teamwork, instead of blow-ups and bickering, the details of child-rearing decisions tend to fall into place.
In this second part of the article, we are going to shift focus and address co-parenting from a longitudinal perspective. How do you approach the challenges of co-parenting after a divorce? How can separated parents provide a great life for their kids together?
Co-Parenting as a Team
RECOGNIZE YOUR FORMER PARTNERS PARENTING ATTRIBUTES
If you're truly ready to put your child's interests ahead of your own, be sincere in your efforts to improve your co-parenting relationship. This begins with acknowledgment of the other parent's strengths, input, and opinions. In divorces ridden with conflict and resentment, parents often ignore the positives associated with their former spouses' parenting efforts.
Even if parents disagree on specific topics, approaches, behaviors, etc., by actively trying to look for and identify any good qualities in each other, parents can have a more productive relationship, find it easier to compromise, and, ultimately, create more consistent rules, and systems between households. Consistent, neutralized rules, for example, could include:
- Don't ask one parent for permission to do something that the other parent has already said no to.
- Otherwise, Dad's house, follow his rules, Mom's house, follow hers.
Parents who co-parent as a team will lessen their child's confusion, frustration, and resentment sparked by polar-opposite parenting agendas; even though kids are exposed to independent perspectives, they will live under similar, fundamental expectations at each home.
STRIVE TO BE NON-COMPETITIVE CO-PARENTS
The bane of co-parenting consistency is competition. The act of competitive co-parenting -where one parent undermines the other in the presence of a child or jockeys for the control/favor of the child- can be immensely harmful to a child's development and his/her familial relationships.
Regardless of if any ill will is still harbored towards each other, parents who keep score and try to out-do one another, imperceptibly do so at the expense of their child. To resist the urge to keep score, remember that as communicative, consistent, non-competitive co-parents, you and your ex-spouse can both provide loving and stable homes for your children to thrive in.
CO-PARENTING THROUGH VISITATION REFUSAL
On the other hand, what if a child "chooses" one parent over the other, refusing visitation despite shared placement? Whatever the reason for visitation refusal -be it bitterness towards one parent's new significant other, resent because visitation has interrupted plans with friends, or a valid reason for not being able to go - the decision can be hurtful, and cause even more strife between co-parents.
While a divorce attorney or family mediator can help parents understand how right of refusal affects their placement order, there are things you can personally do to make visitation refusal easier on yourself, your co-parent, and your kids. Both parents should start with communication. Talk to your child about their refusal; what caused it? Whether there is an easy fix to the problem or it's more complicated, go with the flow; try to give your child the consideration, space, or time that they need. Remember, it may have nothing to do with you, and most cases of visitation refusals are temporary.
Lastly, communicate with your co-parent; a heart-to-heart with concern to your child may be challenging and emotional, but can help you figure out and solve the underlying problem. Be sensitive and understanding to your co-parent, remembering that it all boils down to what's best for your child(ren).
RESPECT IS CRITICAL
Hard feelings don't just disappear after divorce papers are signed. Even if your divorce isn't particularly nasty, there are still underlying reasons you decided to split up with your partner in the first place, so working together with that person is going to be inherently difficult. However, for the good of your children, you need to rise above the emotional aspect and think clearly about what is best for the kids.
Remember, your kids love both of their parents, and both parents love their kids. Those feelings are what matter here, not the broken marital relationship. There is no need to talk negatively about your ex in front of the children. The last thing you want is for a child to feel like he or she has to 'pick sides' in a divorce. Children should be free to love each of their parents equally.
Maturity is the key when it comes to co-parenting successfully. There is no doubt that this can be a challenge, but each parent needs to be mature enough to set aside personal issues and come through for the sake of the children. Demonstrate respect for your ex; make sure your child knows that it is okay to love both parents equally and avoid the kinds of drama that can drag everyone down.
We hope this two-part article has helped you start thinking about the challenges of co-parenting following a divorce. You didn't want to wind up in this situation, of course, but you now must make the best of it, both for the good of the children and for your own well-being. Allowing negativity from a divorce to carry long into the future isn't going to help anyone, so you'll be better served to set those emotions to the side and move on with your life. Thank you for taking the time to visit our blog, and we wish you the best of luck going forward.