02 Mar The 4 Most Difficult Issues Faced When Co-Parenting after a Divorce
With blended families becoming more commonplace in America, effective co-parenting has become a huge topic of interest. One of the biggest challenges of divorced parents today, learning to co-parent can be a huge barrier for parents and children. Working together, regardless of relationship status, is really important in raising healthy, well-adjusted children. Research tells us that children who are co-parented feel more secure, are better able to solve problems, and have a better relationship example to follow. Take a look at the following challenges that many separated/divorced parents encounter when trying to co-parent.
1. A Co-Parent’s Failure to Move on from the Past
You and your spouse/ex-spouse separated for a reason. Unfortunately, a huge percentage of these separations end less than amicably. Whether you are separated because of infidelity or an inability to get along, one thing remains evident: the past is just that, the past. Regardless of the reason why you and your spouse have separated, the fact remains that the two of you have children and are raising them together.
Moving on from the indiscretions which occurred in the past is one of the most challenging issues in co-parenting. Until both you and your ex-spouse put the past where it belongs (in the past), you will continuously hit roadblocks in your co-parenting.
Putting the past in the past may involve some soul-searching. You will need to learn how to forgive your spouse and they will need to do the same. This doesn’t mean forget about the past, but simply forgive them and move on. Seeking professional help from a therapist may be useful in helping you overcome this barrier. Only after letting go of the past and working together with your spouse/ex-spouse in order to raise your children will you be able to effectively co-parent.
2. Learning to Communicate as Co-Parents
Communication is the foundation of every successful relationship. It is an absolutely necessary element for people trying to co-parent their children. You cannot successfully co-parent if you do not speak to one another or if every word out of your mouth is nasty and condescending. Even if you did not communicate well when you were married, you have to figure out a way to communicate now that you’re separated. You have one very large common interest; your kids. That provides an awful lot of important discussions to be had.
There are many aspects of polite communication that otherwise apply to everyday relationships, that we may have neglected to use with the ex-spouse. First and foremost; just listen. Don’t interrupt. Hear the other person out prior to making your point. Second, always be respectful. If you don’t agree, that’s ok, but there is nothing worse than turning a disagreement into a heated argument with your co-parent. Do not make demands of the other parent. When you have a request, let them know it is a request. Ask nicely for help, but don’t demand unless it is an issue of your child’s safety/well-being.
Don’t Use Your Child as a Messenger
Do not ever put your child in the middle by using them as messengers. This is extremely inappropriate and can be harmful to the adjustment of your child. Communication with your co-parent is best addressed directly with your co-parent.
3. Being Consistent with the Kids
If dad lets Billy eat ice cream before dinner, but mom doesn’t let Billy eat ice cream before dinner (and dad knows that), Billy receives a very inconsistent message from his parents. He believes that he can do what he wants with dad, but will have to deal with rules when at mom’s house. Familiar with the term “Disney Dads” (or Moms)? This type of arrangement is simply a recipe for disaster. It may seem simple when dealing with ice cream before dinner but what about when it comes to dating or a curfew? You and your co-parent will have to establish some ground rules early on, and stick with them throughout the lives of your kids. If you are not consistent with how you parent, your kids will pick up on that right away. They will learn what they can get away with and with whom.
Be consistent about how you raise your kids. Establish rules, values, and expectations. Both parents should ensure that these elements are followed with all of the kids that are under their roof. If there are issues, talk about them.
4. Co-Parenting as a Team
Parenting as a team is tricky because you first have to let go of your past with your ex and effectively communicate with your co-parent as a team. Parenting as a team is the ultimate goal of every co-parenting relationship. You want to get to the point where you have moved on from the past, have learned to communicate, and are consistent with the way you raise your kids, as a team.
Parenting as a team means that you work together, putting on a unified front to the kids. Even if you’re in disagreement about something, your kids should understand that mom and dad will discuss it and make a decision together.
Co-parenting is tough. You and your spouse/ex-spouse went your separate ways for a reason. But- you also were together for a reason as well. You have created a family together, and still have a responsibility to your kids to ensure that they are raised to the best of your ability. While it’s hard to work with your ex, it’s not impossible. You can do it, and your kids will certainly benefit if you do.