Parenting past the trials of divorcePublished 5:37pm Saturday, October 27, 2012
QUESTION: Is it possible to co-parent successfully after divorce?
ANSWER: Co-parents can be successful as long as both parents recognize that the well-being of their children is the very first goal. Even though we have not been able to be husband and wife “until death do us part,” we will be parents forever. Children develop healthy identities by being able to love and enjoy both their parents. Here are important things to remember:
Agree that the parent who assumes most of the day-to-day responsibilities for child-rearing has the authority to make plans and decisions without fear of being contradicted or undercut.
You are the adults. Do not put your children in the middle of communications or conflicts. Vow not to allow your feelings of anger about each other surface in front of the children. Co-parenting requires that you act with dignity and maturity.
Praise any effort your co-parent makes to stay involved. Even if the effort is limited to telephone calls or occasional weekends with the kids, affirm the benefits of that involvement.
Find a way to keep communication open. For the sake of your children, you need to find a way to raise concerns and settle problems. Stay in touch through the telephone or e-mail. Think seriously about how to meet periodically on neutral territory to keep current about your children’s needs.
Expect change and its accompanying uncertain feelings. When you are cooperating with someone in raising children and change of any sort happens, the new challenges can create a lot of anxiety. Problems can be worked through. Seek help from a counselor, pastor/priest or mediator if you need it.
Talk with and listen to your children. Allow them to express their feelings about the new parenting arrangements being negotiated on their behalf. Respond as best you can to their fears and worries about how their lives will change. Make sure your co-parent hears any input or suggestions your children share with you.
I have had parents say to me, “If we could do this, we wouldn’t be divorced.” In my opinion, in romantic relationships in our culture we think way too much about ourselves and way too little about future children.
When we are talking with our kids about dating, choosing partners and marriage, we need to talk about children and parenting, too. Ultimately the “two of us” create the children who have to live with their parents’ behaviors and decisions.
If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Linea de Apoyo at 1-877-434-9528. For free emergency child care, call the Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out www.familiesandcommunities.org.