Ten Co-Parenting Tips
Ten Co-Parenting Tips
by Guest Author Elinor Robin, Ph.D. and Virginia L Colin, Ph.D. (mostly Elinor)
1. If you have not done so already, call a truce with your Ex. Divorced parents can succeed at co-parenting. To begin, a ceasefire is necessary. It takes two to make a fight, so there is a good chance that either one of you can stop the fighting.
2. You are stuck with each other forever. One day, you will be Grandma and Grandpa to the same babies. Do you want your children and grandchildren to see that you found ways to cooperate for their benefit?
3. Divorce reflects and/or causes breakdowns in trust and communication. Accept this. Then work towards rebuilding trust and communication with the other parent, even if it feels like you are doing all of the work. Be patient. Emotional wounds need time to heal.
4. Establish a business relationship with your former spouse. The business is the co-parenting of your children. Business relationships are based on mutual gain. Emotional attachments and expectations don’t work in business. Instead, in a successful business communication is up-front and direct, appointments are scheduled, meetings take place, agendas are provided, discussions focus on the business at hand, everyone is polite, formal courtesies are observed, and agreements are explicit, clear, and written. You do not need to like the people you do business with but you do need to put negative feelings aside in order to conduct business. Relating in a business-like way with your former spouse may feel strange and awkward at first so if you catch yourself behaving in an unbusiness-like way, end the conversation and continue the discussion at another time.
5. There are at least two versions to every story. Your child may attempt to slant the facts in a way that gives you what she thinks you want to hear. So give the other parent the benefit of the doubt when your child reports on extraordinary discipline and/or rewards.
6. Parents should be the primary decision-makers. If possible, talk with your ex about important plans before suggesting them or making arrangements directly with pre-adolescent children. If you discuss arrangements with an older child, always confirm them with the other parent ASAP.
7. The transition between Mom’s house and Dad’s house is often difficult. Be sure to have your children clean, fed, ready to go, and in possession of all of their paraphernalia when its time to make the switch.
8. Unless the other parent is really intruding on your time with your child, do not limit his or her telephone contact with your child. Do not eavesdrop.
9. Do not discuss the divorce, finances, or other adult subjects with your children. In most cases it is best to avoid saying anything negative about the other parent or his/her family and friends to your children.
10. Children are always listening – especially when you think they’re not. So, avoid discussions regarding the divorce, finances, the other parent, and other adult subjects when your children are within earshot.
More tips will follow in a future blog post. If you and your ex are having difficulty building a functional relationship as co-parents, consult with a co-parenting counselor or a family mediator.
Virginia L Colin, Ph.D., is a Professional Family Mediator certified by the Virginia Supreme Court. She is not an attorney or a therapist. For a free consultation about whether family mediation would be helpful for you, contact her at mediatorQ@gmail.com or 703 864 2101.