We can define a co-parent as the person or people who in some way contribute to raising a child. For example, a spouse, grandparents, unrelated caretakers, an ex, can all be considered co-parents although their roles may differ greatly from that of the primary parent. In a divorce, if the co-parent is an ex, or perhaps a spouse of the ex, it is critical that parenting be viewed as respectful and cooperative by the child/children. Avoiding co-parenting pitfalls is achievable with a plan in place.
While the role of spouse ends when a marriage dissolves, if there are children the role of parent continues after the divorce. This next phase of your life with your former spouse is encompasses task of continuing to raise your children. Now the looming question is, if I couldn’t get along with my spouse to be able stay married, how can we get along well enough to parent our children together? Making the decision to stay involved in your child’s life means you’ve made the decision to cooperate with your ex.
Children of divorce can sense tension between parents even if it isn’t overt. If however parents send messages through their children or talk negatively about the other parent, children may feel caught in the middle. That can lead to the child pitting one parent against the other in order to achieve his/her goals. Some mental health professionals call this splitting. These experts say when parents don’t work together, the children are left feeling guilty, confused and overwhelmed.
Many co-parents find it helpful to have a document aimed at avoiding co-parenting pitfalls, stating all the expectations and rules they’d like to see in place as they continue raising their child/children. This leads to a collaborative co-parenting relationship rather than an antagonistic one. University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension Program has developed a parenting plan table that has proven to be a useful tool aimed at eliminating conflict. Among the considerations this program addresses are topics including household rules and social engagements for the children.
The Parenting Plan spells out the “rules” which each parent is expected to follow as they each contribute to raising their children. Who will make certain decisions? Will decisions be made individually or together? The plan also recommends the things each parent will try to achieve in order to “ensure a healthier adjustment for the child.”
Experts agree on some key factors for co-parents:
- Disagreeing in front of your children is never okay. Keep it behind closed doors. It’s essential for the children to believe a decision about them was made together.
- Adopt the art of compromise. That may not have worked in the marriage but it is a critical part of co-parenting children.
- Gather a support system which should include people who can help you work through decisions and compromises.
All of the above will go a long way toward avoiding co-parenting pitfalls.
The inability to negotiate through problems is likely part of the cause of the divorce, so attempting to do just that to ensure the children are well cared for is no easy task. But the primary focus of co-parenting is the child/children’s well-being, and that should be a goal shared by both parties. Some couples may successfully negotiate on their own while others may need assistance creating a stable environment for their children. It is also imperative that any outstanding legal issues be referred to a reliable attorney who will ensure that they are all resolved. Individuals in New Jersey with any custody or parenting time issues are welcome to seek our services. For more information or to schedule an appointment, give us a call at 973-718-7705 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.