When parents with minor children get divorced, the relationship between spouses doesn’t end; it just changes. They now have to learn how to co-parent effectively. This can be very challenging especially if it was an acrimonious divorce and there are still lingering feelings of anger, resentment and sadness. However, it is essential to put those emotions aside for the sake of the children. The mental health effects of divorce can linger in children affecting their relationships with parents, extended family and future partners. If you are co-parenting after divorce, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Don’t put your child in the middle
It’s not enough to just refrain from fighting in front of your children. You also shouldn’t bad mouth your ex-spouse, his or her family members or new significant other. Your family members also shouldn’t make disparaging remarks about your ex. Don’t say anything or act in a way that makes your children feel like they should pick sides. If one of you does say inappropriate things to the children, the other parent should try to neutralize it with the children and focus on reassuring the children that you are both there for them. You can address the issue of what was said separately with your spouse at another time.
Demonstrate a united front to your children
You and your ex should be on the same page when telling your children about the divorce and how it will impact them. Your children need stability and to know they are loved so they can better cope with the divorce. If you are at odds with each other, your children will be affected. It may also lead to your children trying to leverage one parent against the other, which will only lead to more conflicts between parents and children.
Find common ground in resolving disputes over your children
There will constantly be parenting decisions that need to be made post-divorce, including those involving healthcare, education, activities, parenting time and other matters. It is critical to be able to deal with your ex respectfully and negotiate a compromise when you don’t agree. If you cannot settle on your own, you should consider using a parenting coordinator. A parenting coordinator (PC) is a licensed mental health professional or licensed attorney with specific training and experience who assists parents who cannot resolve their disputes to keep them out of court.
Act in the best interests of your children
Even if you think you know what’s best for your child, consider the issue from your child’s perspective. What would make them feel better, loved, protected, and stable? You have to put your feelings aside.
Don’t interfere in the relationship between your child and spouse
One of the factors that courts consider in awarding child custody and parenting time is a parent’s willingness to cooperate with the other parent and encourage a relationship between him or her and the child. If you try to manipulate your children, make it harder for your ex to visit, or otherwise interfere in the relationship, it may affect your custody or visitation. Further, if it escalates, you may be subject to a claim of parental alienation.
If you are withholding visitation because you suspect abuse or neglect, consult an attorney about what to do.
Consult a family or child therapist
While a PC can help, it may be beneficial to seek additional counseling for yourself and/or your child. A therapist can advise you on how to talk to your children and help them manage the transition. He or she can also assist you in dealing with your own feelings that are standing in the way of effective co-parenting with your ex.
If you are engaging in disputes with your former spouse over your children, contact us to discuss how to resolve your conflict in the most effective manner.