When a marriage doesn't work out, what's the next best thing? What's co-parenting?
You’ve probably already heard that around half of all marriages in the United States don’t work out. While it may sound rough, sometimes divorce is the only thing to do, plain and simple.
Children come first, and you have to give your children the consistency, stability, and confidence needed to live fulfilling and successful lives. And one thing is for sure - you won’t be able to provide that if they’re stuck in a stressful, hostile environment between two estranged partners.
Enter co-parenting, the most practical way to preserve a stable life for your children even after your divorce.
So, what is co-parenting? What does it mean for my children? How can I make it work? Let’s talk about it.
Co-parenting is a parenting relationship between separated or divorced parents who take equal or equivalent care of their children.
Divorce can be extremely tough on children, affecting both the current period of their life and further development. By learning to put their differences aside, co-parents ensure they provide stability for their children by enabling them to have a loving relationship with both of them.
Since both parents are present in the child’s life - together but separate - the child doesn’t feel like they have to choose, fostering loving relationships with both of their parents instead.
While the separation will still be painful for the child, both in the emotional and social context, co-parenting helps minimize the negative effects on the children by providing them a safe, loving environment in which they can work through their emotions with your help.
The impact of divorce on mental health indicators and children's psychological development is huge, but co-parenting has been proven to alleviate this by helping children understand and trust your decision.
In fact, co-parenting benefits your children in numerous ways.
In a co-parenting relationship, children keep a sense of security and stability. Both of their parents are still a part of their lives, and they are assured they are loved.
That means that the children can adapt to this new situation more easily while developing higher self-esteem and fewer trust issues.
The family remains a safe zone which gives them more time to confidently explore and develop in the world around them as opposed to being stressed out in the middle of family drama.
Co-parents make plans, they set similar rules to follow, and they are in agreement with discipline and rewards which provides structure for their children.
The children feel the consistency in what to expect and what’s expected of them which allows for a healthier, easier upbringing without unnecessary stress.
By working through your differences and putting them aside, by respecting your co-parent, you are setting a healthy example for your children to follow.
Your children will become more mature, and well-versed in conflict resolution in the future enabling them to foster stronger, healthier relationships.
Co-parenting after divorce helps set your children up for success for the rest of their lives.
Since they feel loved by both parents and spend time with them, the children develop confidence. When they see you working on your issues with your co-parent, they learn problem-solving and communication skills. Balancing between two homes and two parents, they acquire organization skills. And that’s only touching the surface.
So, how to ensure effective co-parenting?
Your children come first which is why it is crucial that both parents set their feelings aside.
It’s perfectly okay to have bad feelings, but you shouldn’t let them influence your behavior. Each time when you feel irritated, it’s best to wait for a couple of hours before you react.
Rely on your friends, your therapist, a sport, or whatever helps you get those feelings out. Just make sure that you never vent to your children or badmouth your ex to them. Your children shouldn’t be put in the middle of the conflict and they shouldn’t feel like they have to choose.
Always remember that your issues with your ex aren’t your child’s issue. Don’t make your children the messenger. Moreover, try to speak positively about the other parent.
By removing them from any conflict between the co-parents, they can foster a healthy relationship with both of their parents.
Communication is key to a successful co-parenting relationship.
Again, try to remove your emotions from any conversations you have. Instead, focus on the well-being of your child and their best interests. Always count to ten before you react!
If you’re having particular issues communicating with your co-parent, try emails or texting. You don’t have to actually speak with them. Just be clear and concise to avoid any misunderstandings.
You can even use tools like FamiliPay that offers a messaging center as a communications intermediary. Communications from FamiliPay are form emails that help eliminate any personal communication or agenda.
The clearer you make your agreement, the smoother your co-parenting relationship will go, especially if your divorce was particularly problematic. Work with your co-parent to establish a basic set of rules.
Now, we need to say right away that you shouldn’t expect the rules to be the same in their household as they are in yours. However, the most basic rules such as homework, curfews, forbidden activities, as well as the system of punishments and rewards should be fairly similar.
Medical care, financials, school events, extra-curricular activities, and anything else your child may be taking part in are other aspects of the relationship that you should define, too.
Finally, avoid arguments and misunderstandings by carefully planning out your time with your child. Create a shared calendar, but remain flexible. If your co-parent asks for an additional day with your child for a special activity, be open to it - your child will appreciate it greatly.