Parenting is hard, co-parenting is even harder. After a divorce, how can parents work together successfully when it comes to the best interests of their child? Lee Rosen, retired divorce attorney and founder of the Rosen Law Firm, fills you in.
What are some tips for co-parenting? Transcript
Hi, I’m Lee Rosen. What are some tips for co-parenting?
Parenting is hard. Co-parenting is even harder. We’ve all got kids. We’ve faced the challenges. Now that you’re separated, you’re going through this process. The emotions are difficult, and dealing with the children is just so hard.
I was involved in a case recently where there’s no doubt in my mind that both mom and dad had the best interest of the child at heart. They were really trying to do the best thing. They just saw things differently. The child was into dance and you know how in our culture today when a kid is into something, parents can really take it the extreme. Mom did everything. The kid was going to the lessons several days a week, money was being spent on a private instructor and costumes. We’ve all been there. We know how these things take on a life of their own. So the child was fully immersed in the world of dance.
The dad looked at it and saw it differently. It felt like this is consuming our lives. On my weekends I don’t want to be running the child to dance all the time. I want to have time. I want the child to have time, I want her to, sort of, be able to do other fun things. So we had that classic conflict between mom and dad about what was best. It was manageable when they were together, but when apart it really becomes a difficult issue in which to resolve.
Now both of them want to do what’s best for the child. They both want to act in the best interest of the child because they love her, but it just becomes so much more difficult when you’re parenting apart. Ultimately, they were able to reach agreement, and the child felt loved as a result of the arrangements they were able to come to. That’s what we’re all trying to do. We’re trying to help the child to do okay, to be okay, to feel okay.
So that’s why we’ve got to learn to parent together. That’s why co-parenting is so important. Working closely together, co-parenting, is critically important. The experts tell us that when parents are able to cooperate, to parent together, that the child feels more secure. They feel that powerful message that’s coming from watching their parents work together. They grow up with fewer problems, have better self-esteem, their lives turn out better.
And so that’s probably reason number one why it’s so important to figure out how to parent together, how to be excellent co-parents. Number two, when parents are consistent, when they’re working together, when they’ve found a way to have the same rules at each house even when they’re in two houses instead of one, when they take the same approach because they’re communicating and cooperating and figuring out how to parent this child together the child does better.
The experts are consistent about that. They say if you approach this together as parents and work with a system that the child understands, again, that this child is going to grow up stronger, healthier, and happier. So that’s important. Finally, when parents are able to work together, when they’re co-parenting, they’re teaching something by example. They’re showing how to behave as an adult, how to behave as a parent. We all know that we look to our parents as examples, both good and bad, as we make decisions in our lives.
Well, right now as co-parents you’re teaching your child how to behave when your child grows up. Be a good example, work together. Learn how to co-parent with your spouse. So now some tips on co-parenting. I’ve watched a lot of people deal with these issues, and I’ve learned a little bit by watching them. I want to pass that along to you today.
You’ve got to treat your new co-parenting relationship as a new relationship. It’s not the old marriage. You can’t relate to your now former spouse the same way that you did when you were together. You’ve got to treat it as a distinct and brand new situation. That’s the only way that this is going to work. If you do the old stuff you’re going to get the old result and that wasn’t always good.
So be careful about your tone, the way that you interact with the other parent. Don’t revert to the old tactics. In the new relationship you may need, at least, in the beginning, to be more formal. Take this as sort of a business relationship not as a personal relationship. As you work out what the new relationship is going to feel like and be like, you’ve got to treat it as a brand new relationship that’s completely distinct from the way that the two of you did things in the past.
Put the kids first. That’s my second tip. They’ve got to be the priority. Don’t worry about anything else. Just think about what’s in their best interest. In this dance situation that I mentioned earlier, what really helped us to work it was that the parents stopped worrying about their agendas, their schedules, and they worried, at least, as little as they could about the money and focused on what was really going to help this child over the long haul. When you put the child first, you’re going to get to where you need to be in terms of co-parenting, and you’re going to be doing the best for the child.
Then finally, this is probably the most important thing, don’t put your kid in the middle. Don’t use the kid as a messenger. Don’t in any way let the child be involved in the relationship between mom and dad. Mom and dad’s relationship is separate and distinct and independent from the child. Don’t let the kid get in the middle. That is just a recipe for disaster.
I’m not going to try and pretend that co-parenting is easy. Parenting is hard. Co-parenting is really much more difficult, but you’ve got to do it. The child is so important and the last thing you want to do is make mistakes that turn this into an awful situation for your child. Divorce is difficult, but you can make this work for your child. It’s what’s happening, and you can turn it into a positive situation.