Co-Parenting and Joint Custody Tips for Divorced Parents
Once your divorce is finalized, co-parenting with your ex-spouse can be particularly challenging. If you and your spouse had a difficult divorce, or you’re going through the process now – it might be harder than you expected to find common ground and learn to co-parent your children. It’s in your child’s best interest to have both parents remain active participants in their lives. We realize it can be hard to interact with someone you couldn’t remain married to but focusing on how this is what’s best for your kids can help you move forward.
Why is Co-Parenting Important?
Co-parenting may sound like the latest buzzword without any real meaning, but in its essence, being a good co-parent comes down to being flexible and open to compromise. While your marriage is over, you and your previous partner created a family that didn’t end just because your marriage did. The first step towards being a great co-parent begins with putting your kids first. Your children and their feelings will need to be prioritized over everything else – especially the issues that ended your marriage.
When you and your ex have a good co-parenting relationship, your child will feel:
- Safe: Kids who feel loved can deal with challenging issues easier and get through them with their self-esteem intact. They are resilient because they feel safe.
- Secure: When co-parents work together to create a cohesive environment across households, children feel secure because they know what to expect. A stable and secure home life gives children a safe place to retreat to as they learn to navigate an unpredictable outside world.
- Confident: Children who watch their parents work through problems collaboratively will have confidence and learn how to effectively solve their own problems and push through conflict.
Start by acknowledging how you feel. Be honest with yourself about your feelings, then choose to put your children’s feelings first. If your ex makes you feel angry, resentful, or sad, you need to create a way to process these feelings. If you don’t think you can do this alone, try speaking to someone you trust, or try speaking to a mental health specialist.
Tips to Help You Create a Strong Co-Parenting Relationship
For a co-parenting relationship to work and grow, it takes willingness on the part of both parents. Whether the divorce process was good or bad or somewhere in-between, you must realize it was hard for your children. Divorce is almost always a traumatic experience for children, but parents can minimize the impact of these emotions by working together to show their kids that the most important aspects of their life have not changed.
Here are several tips to help as you get started on your relationship with your co-parent:
- Be Honest: You’re getting a divorce, which will impact your child’s life. You can’t hide it from them. While you don’t need to tell them everything, you can give them enough information to help them prepare for the process and know what to expect. If your divorce is complete, you should still work to be honest with your child about your relationship with your co-parent. They don’t need brutal honesty, but you can use age-appropriate honesty when discussing the realities of your new relationship with your ex.
- Keep the Children Neutral: It’s important to include your children in your divorce in healthy ways. You can help them understand the process in an age-appropriate way, which can help ease the fear and sadness they are feeling. The worst thing you can do is make your children choose between you and your spouse. You should never say disparaging things about your estranged spouse or try to make your children share in your feelings about your husband or wife.
- Create Stability: Divorce will introduce chaos into your lives, which is overwhelming for children. You want to work with your spouse to maintain consistency in your children’s life. If they feel too many things are changing, they can retreat inward and begin to shut you out.
- Be a Safe Space: Your children are going through many changes as you and your spouse work to finalize your divorce, so you should be there for them by being a safe space. They may have a new school or a new bedroom, or they could be trying to make new friends in a new place. With so much change in their lives, they need quality time and someone to listen to when they feel afraid or worried.
- Respect & Support Each Other: Your co-parent will make mistakes because they are learning on the job just like you. Your child needs you and your ex equally, and their life is made smaller when one parent pulls away after divorce. So, it’s important to practice open communication, make big decisions together, respect their opinion as much as you’d want yours respected, and apologize when needed.
- Ask for Help When You Need It: If you need help balancing your childcare needs or you can’t quite get over the divorce, co-parenting will be more challenging than you expected. It’s okay to ask for help. Don’t just assume you can handle things. If you’re struggling to figure out life post-divorce, you can seek help from your support system or consider working with a mental health professional or life coach to help you with the transition.
- Take Care of Yourself: Your well-being is just as important as your children’s. If your emotional, physical, or mental well-being has taken a backseat to everything else in your life, you need to take steps to get things back in sync. To be a good parent, co-parent, and healthy human being, you need to take stock of your priorities and goals. Your children will not be well if you’re not well.
For many divorcees, learning to co-parenting is the hardest part of their post-married life with an ex-spouse. It may be hard, but learning to co-parent will be the most important investment you and your ex-partner can into your futures going forward.
If you need help with your custody arrangement, or you’re ready to start the process, contact the Alers Law Firm at (407) 930-4888 to schedule a consultation.