Learning to Co-Parent
We’re going to move on now, and we’re going talk about how to be successful co-parents. Co-parenting really is so important when it comes to child custody. You always want to put your child first, and I know it’s difficult when you know that you have all of these underlying issues and tensions with the other parent, but as long as you put the child first and really focus on co-parenting, your child is going to have the smoothest transition.
This is going to be wonderful for your child if you’re able to put your differences behind you, and act as good co-parents. The best way to do that is to first put the child first. And then next, you really want to focus on consistency. You want to make sure that what’s happening at Dad’s house is also happening at Mom’s house. Whether that’s just staying consistent with the bedtime–you agree that during school week 7:30 is bedtime, and on weekends it can be later, maybe 9:30. That’s fine. But if the child is having the same experience at both houses–reasonably similar dinner times, reasonably similar bedtime routines, and then same bedtime, that’s going to be great. That’s going to allow that child to kind of have a more seamless transition back and forth between households.
In order to be successful co-parents though, communication is key. You’ve got to really be able to open the lines of communication. You’ve got to put some trust in the other parent, and you’ve got to be open about everything that’s happening at both households. A lot of parents will take a businesslike approach to this, so you’re removing the emotion, removing all of that anger that’s happened since you have separated. Really focus on it being businesslike relationship, where you put the child first and you try to make a consistent household for the child to transition back and forth through.
A nice perk of being able to successfully co-parent is that it sets a great example for your child. As your child gets older, they’ll start to pick up on the fact that, “Look at Mom and Dad. They don’t agree on everything. They weren’t able to make the marriage work. They separated. They have these fundamental differences about things, but they’ve always been able to be great co-parents for me.”
As the child gets older, they’ll start to pick up on how you’re able to set your differences aside, you’re able to make compromises, and it really does set a great example for your child, as he or she moves forward with life, in dealing with his or her friends, and family members as well. There’re a lot of benefits to being good co-parents.
How Do You Tell You Children About Divorce?
One thing that we get asked a lot is, “How do I tell my kids? What’s the best way to do it? When do I tell my kids?”
We’re going to spend a little bit of time talking about what we’ve learned through our studies, is the best way to kind of approach letting the children know that this is happening, and you’re transitioning from one household to two.
First we need to talk about what you’re going to say. Children will fear that that love between you and them is going to stop, because it did between you and the other parent. That’s really the basis of the child’s fear when it comes to separation and custody issues. The best thing to do is to really stress to the child that, “We both love you unconditionally. We are always going to love you.”
Also stress that this decision to separate and move into different households has nothing to do with the children. You want to reassure them that you’re still going to have a strong bond, that you still love them, that you’re still going to be involved in their lives. You’re still going to go to their soccer games, and school plays, that sort of thing.
Just stressing that the love between you and the child is still there, and that they are definitely not the reason for you moving into a separate household.
The best way to do this is to do it together. Present a united front to the children, and to do it together. This can be difficult because a lot of parents want to blame the other parent, or they want the children to know to some degree what’s been going on. But that’s not the best transition for your children.
If you can approach them together, and show this united front and explain from both of you that there’s still love between you and the child, that it’s never going to break, the child is the most important, that’s the best way to break the news to the children. We do have some more resources on our website that talk about this, and there are lots of books out there that we can point you in that direction as well. But just know at a minimum it’s best to do it together, and it’s best to reiterate to the child over and over again that you still love them, and that this decision isn’t about them.