Many divorcing parents want to be able to work with the other parent in raising their children. We refer to this in legal terminology as Co-Parenting. There can be as many ways to co-parent as there are parents. There are a number of publications (online and in print) that provide details for the best way to co-parent your children after divorce.
Websites have been created to assist parents with scheduling and communication. One that is favored by many courts in the Greater Houston Area is Our Family Wizard. In-person parenting classes are offered that can provide you with in-depth training on how to approach co-parenting after divorce. Here is a short list of pointers to minimize any hostility between the parents and nurture a healthy environment for your children:
- Communicate. Effective communication is the cornerstone of every successful relationship. Co-parenting your child is no exception.
- Never degrade the other parent within the hearing of the children. When you think the kids can’t hear you or that they are asleep, you may find that they are awake and within earshot. You are the center of a child’s world. They are very interested in what you are doing and tend to “pop up” at some very inconvenient times. So, when you call a friend to vent about your ex, assume the children are listening. Save those vent sessions for when the kids are with the other parent for when the kids are not with you. Your children want to please you (even though at times it doesn’t feel that way!) and when they hear you running down their other parent, they may think that is what you want them to do to show you that they love you and are on “your side.” Avoid putting your child in a position where they feel they must keep a secret from either of their parents (the bad things they heard you say) or may feel they must pick sides. Remember, they didn’t get a say in the split and they shouldn’t be put in the middle between you and your ex.
Side Note: Judge’s HATE hearing about this…if you ever find yourself in Court and the Judge believes that this has been going on, at the very least that will be a point against you.
- Disagreements should be handled between the parents. Any disagreements or misunderstandings should NEVER be handled when the kids are present. They will always feel the need to protect one or both parents and you don’t want to cause ill will between your child and their other parent.
- Never use the child as a messenger. This is the age of technology. Almost everyone has a cell phone with text messaging and voicemail and there are many parenting Apps that can help provide avenues for communication. Your child doesn’t need to be the relay between you and their other parent. Parents tend to fall into this rut more when the children are old enough to have their own cell phones. It is great that you make arrangements with your child but, if those arrangements impinge on the other parent’s time with the child, be sure to discuss it with the parent before speaking about it with your child.
- Remember, this isn’t about you. We often get caught up in our own emotions and become spiteful or hateful towards a person we feel has done us wrong. This is especially prevalent during or immediately after legal proceedings. Your children deserve parents who show each other respect. You might not like each other all the time but a level of respect should be shown simply because you share a child.