Co-parenting, sometimes referred to as shared parenting, is the experience of raising a child by parents who are not married, who are living separately, or who have gone through a divorce. The whole process is fraught with emotions that the thought of having to do anything with an ex may seem unmanageable. But for the sake of the children’s sense of security and well-being, co-parenting is crucial.
A number of researches have found that parents arguing in front of their children are proven to be much more damaging to a child’s mental health than the entire divorce process. A recent study by the University of Sussex and the Early Intervention Foundation revealed that conflict between parents could put children’s long-term life chances at risk.
1. Create a co-parenting plan or agreement.
A reliable divorce lawyer from Suffolk County can help prepare a basic custody schedule for both parents. The agreement will help ensure a smoother co-parenting experience by setting the ground rules and being explicit about any expectations. While the schedule set out should generally be followed, parents should allow for some flexibility in times when emergencies arise. Additionally, if the original plan does not work out for both, it is best to adjust it as needed. A good co-parenting agreement should cover the following key points:
- Schedules as to when the child will switch homes
- How and where the exchanges will be made
- How the communication lines should be kept
- What general routines should be followed at each respective houses, including curfew and chores
- How parenting issues or concerns will be resolved
2. Support each other.
In the United States alone, around 41% of first marriages end in divorce, as do 60% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages. Most of those children of divorce will often find themselves in difficult situations, having to juggle between two parents. For parents, co-parenting amicably and setting aside any issues with an ex is considered to be crucial for the best interests of the child.
Never badmouth about a spouse to the child. First, it is hurtful to the child. Second, not only does it hurts a child’s feelings, but it also places them in the awful position of having to choose sides. This can cause exceptional psychological distress for a lot of children.
Do not fall for the child messenger trap. Attempting to communicate through a child lets them know that there is still conflict between their parents. This leads to undue emotional stress and forces the child to handle problems and responsibilities that are not their own, to begin with.
Do not expose the children to conflict. Putting children in the middle of emotionally charged issues promotes feelings of insecurity and helplessness. Many children in these situations end up questioning their own abilities and strengths.
3. Consider therapy.
When co-parenting, tensions can run high, so finding a support network is very important. Lean on friends and family members, and join a supportive co-parenting group. These are some ways to cope with the emotions that arise post-divorce, such as anxiety, fear, uncertainty, feelings of inadequacy, and even abandonment.
Often a difficult process, co-parenting in a healthy way is very important for the children involved and for the divorce to become a more positive experience. A co-parenting agreement will set the basic ground rules. But to make co-parenting successful, a parent needs to practice patience and empathy and maintain open communication with the ex.