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Co-Parenting After a Divorce

Making Joint Custody Work: Tips for Co-Parenting After a Divorce

Parenting is challenging enough for couples who live under the same roof with their children. With one less parent and another house, raising children becomes more difficult. Co-parenting – also known as joint parenting or shared custody – involves having both parents play an active role in their children’s lives after a divorce. Unless your family faced serious issues like domestic violence or substance abuse, joint custody is the best way to meet your children’s needs and to help them maintain close relationships with both parents.

Co-Parenting in a Nutshell

Research suggests that the quality of the relationship between two co-parents has a strong influence on a child’s emotional and mental well-being. A child with amicable co-parents is less likely to have anxiety and depression. However, co-parenting is sometimes challenging, especially after an unfriendly split. It can be hard to get past the history you have with your ex and move on from built-up resentments. You might also stress over your ex-spouse’s parenting skills, child support and financial issues. Despite the many challenges, it’s possible to develop a good-natured relationship with your ex-spouse for the sake of your children.

Communication and Conflict Resolution

The key to effective co-parenting is to view your relationship with your ex-spouse as a business partnership, with the business being your child or children’s best interests. You two are no longer together, but your kids’ well-being is a priority. Aim for peaceful, consistent and purposeful communication. Even if you choose to talk to your ex through emails or phone calls, approach your co-parent as a colleague. Speak to them cordially, respectfully and neutrally. If an agreement isn’t reached, seek help from a neutral third party, such as a family lawyer. It’s unavoidable that you and your co-parent will get into disagreements or negotiations. For example, they plan to go on a vacation in Townsville on a day that clashes with your schedule. The key is to talk calmly and listen to your ex’s side. You could probably agree to offset certain days of their time with the children instead of depriving them of spending a vacation with your ex-partner.

Consistency is the Key

When laying down a parenting plan, aim for consistency. Even if they fight it, children need routine and structure for bedtime, chores, meal times and study times. This allows them to feel secure despite shifting between two households. You don’t necessarily need to enforce the same rules in your households, but the guidelines must be consistent so that the child doesn’t have to go back and forth between considerably different disciplinary environments. Keep your ex-spouse in the loop when making major decisions, such as those concerning education and medical needs. As much as it’s important to stick to a schedule, circumstances will change. Your child could start a new school year or maybe take up a sport or hobby that requires practice time, for instance. Make sure to occasionally review details with your ex and adjust rules accordingly.
Sharing parenting duties with your ex-partner after a divorce can be a challenging process. Arguments and misunderstandings are unavoidable when you are both raising your children while getting past the history you have shared. The challenges, though, will be worth it once you’ve established consistent guidelines and clear communication, important relationship aspects that will help ensure your child’s well-being despite moving back and forth two households.
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