The One Change Co-Parents Should Make
Although parenting techniques and methods evolve through the years, some pieces of co-parenting advice remain constant. In 2011, we asked family law professionals what was one thing they thought co-parents could do in order to improve their children's adjustment to their divorce.
The insights they shared about post-divorce communication are powerful, and we've collected the 7 brightest pieces of advice for your benefit. These tips encompass the most important topics in shared parenting, and co-parents should not limit themselves to implementing just one.
Remember you're on the same team
"Make sure the best parent is both parents. Foster and nurture the children's relationship with the non-custodial parent. Do not vilify the other parent in front of the children. And always place the children's needs in front of your own."
Ask yourself the tough questions
"Remember to ask yourself some really important questions: Do I love my kids more than I dislike my ex? What will my kids say about how I handled post-divorce parenting when they're grown adults? This will keep you on target in putting their emotional and psychological needs first when making any parenting decisions following the divorce.
Framing the circumstances as opportunities is one of the most important keys to giving our children a way to move through the divorce experience with dignity, peace, and happiness. It worked in my family as it did in yours!
Another great question to ask yourselves, which I got from Mike Mastracci, Esq., is: "Would I be making this same parenting decision if I were still married?" Too often our decisions are colored by how we feel about our ex, keeping us from providing the best parenting suggestions and advice for our children. If we stop and ask ourselves whether this is what I would do regardless of the divorce, it keeps our responses cleaner and clearer.
Give children permission to love both parents
"It is all about the level of conflict and acceptance. Give the children permission to love both parents and go back and forth freely without conflict. The children should not always be living the legacy of their parents' divorce."
Focus on the positive
"When we communicate expectations about what "not to do" instead of what actions to do, we promote staying in the negative loop. Resolving and committing to train and practice being the best co-parents possible to children, focuses parents on positive actions. The sense of powerlessness is reduced when parents can check off the positive actions they are taking to being exceptional co-parents."
Be warm in your relationship with your child
"What protects children post-divorce is what protects children anywhere, in any family: keep the level of parental conflict low in their presence, and be warm, warm, warm in your relationship with your child. To be warm toward your children requires having other places to deal with strong, negative emotions. It allows a parent to shine, to glow in the presence of children, to see them as people in their own right, to always be curious about them, and to handle disappointments in their behavior with compassion.
Warmth is what gets lost in the cold rage of divorce, but also in intact families in which parents war silently with one another. And, according to Joan Kelly Ph.D., in the recent research on risk and resilience in children post-divorce, Warmth is even more important than the level of conflict as an outcome predictor."
Be honest about your own actions
"I think the biggest factor involved in working out family law disputes is taking personal responsibility. I don't mean blaming yourself for everything that's gone wrong. I mean taking responsibility for your own actions and inaction; and taking responsibility for working out disputes that arise, regardless of what the other person does or says.
Sometimes there's simply no reasoning with the other person, but if you're truly doing everything you can to work things out, then at least you're going to get through it a happier person."
Seek out additional help
"Seek out informational and educational resources. For example, The National Family Resiliency Center (a non-profit organization at www.divorceabc.com) provides a great online tool, Family Connex, that helps parents address the psychological, intellectual, interpersonal and safety and security needs of each of their children."
These seven insights can provide a strong foundation on which to build a positive and productive co-parenting relationship. Following these tenets may be easier on some days, harder on others, but a commitment to respectful communication will always keep you on the right track.