Co-parenting, sometimes also referred to as joint parenting or shared parenting, can be challenging for any divorced couple. For example, you may disagree with the way your ex-spouse handles important decisions regarding your children or you may worry that your ex-spouse is saying bad things about you which could damage your relationship with your child. Co-parenting does not have to reduce your family’s overall functioning. There are tips for co-parenting that help to address your concerns.
It’s important to remember that unless there are serious concerns with one of the parents such as substance abuse or domestic violence, research shows that successful co-parenting can reduce child behavior problems and lower their risk to developing depression or anxiety.
Studies have shown the mental health and social functioning of children of divorced parents are influenced not by the break-up of the parents, but by the state of family functioning after the separation. Consequently, the key to successful co-parenting is to continue as a functioning family unit even after divorce.
Here are 4 tips for co-parenting. Keep your family healthy and create an environment that will best support your children.
Aim for consistency
Divorce can be de-stabilizing for children. While rules do not have to be exactly the same at each house, parents should maintain consistency in discipline and expectations for behavior and avoid contradicting each other.
Create and stick to a plan
How much time will your child spend at each house? Where will your child spend holidays and birthdays? How long will you wait to introduce your child to a new partner? When and how will you pick up the children on transition days?
These are important questions that should be decided in advance. It is beneficial to re-visit these issues as often as necessary, as living situations are likely to change over time.
Never involve your children in conflict
If you are upset with your ex, do not put your children in the middle. Do not use your children as messengers to deliver complaints to your ex. When children see their parents deal with conflict in mutually respectful ways, this sets the stage for them to develop their own healthy relationship skills.
In contrast, research has shown that when children are exposed to ongoing parental conflict, they are at greater risk for developing behavioral problems, depression or anxiety.
Commit to making the best out of the situation
Make an effort to bring positivity into your life and the lives of your children as much as possible. Do not burden your child with complaints or frustrations about your ex. Instead, try to take a balanced approach and do your best to remember your children benefit the most when both parents stay united. Co-parenting with a commitment to structure, predictability and a healthy dose of fun will provide a better family environment for everyone.
If you are struggling with co-parenting or facing a divorce, you do not have to face these challenging times alone.
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