Supporting Parents. Fostering Change.

Co-Parenting

Dear Cathi,


I have recently separated from my wife of 11 years. We have joint custody of our three children. Forgive me if I sound frustrated, but I just don’t see how this can work. My ex-wife and I couldn’t agree on anything when we WERE married. How are we suppose to work things out now that we are not? As things stand, we can’t even talk to each other without arguing and fighting. The kids are upset, and we are not getting any closer to figuring out how we can both be parents to our kids without it turning into a complete mess!
Do you have any ideas for us?

Sincerely,

Stephen


Stephen,

Hang in there. I know that shared custody can be extraordinarily frustrating. Don’t expect it to go smoothly for quite some time. The following Do’s and Don’ts may help you manage the difficult road ahead:

Do’s
1. Put aside your anger and work together for the sake of your children.
2. Be supportive and nurturing to your children.
3. Expect to have disagreements with your ex- spouse.
4. When talking to your ex-spouse, focus on your children. Avoid rehashing relationship issues.
5. Make a list of “parent partner rules” to follow i.e. treat each other with respect, don’t argue in front of the kids.
6. Choose your parenting battles wisely. Know when differing parental methods are outside of your control, and LET GO!
7. Praise you children’s mother in front of the children.
8. Acknowledge and own your own feelings about the divorce to leave room to hear your children’s feelings.
9. Minimize unnecessary stress. Keep the same friends, family, school, and community activities whenever possible.
10. Avoid too frequent changeover between homes. Children need stability.
11. Support your children’s relationship with their mother and her family.
12. Respect your need for privacy as well as your ex’s.
13. Develop a stable parenting schedule that offers regular contact with both parents.

Don’ts

1. Argue in front of the kids.
2. Use your children as a therapist/confidant. If you need one, HIRE ONE!!!
3. Say negative things about the other parent to your children.
4. Force your children to talk about their feelings.
5. Take the bait. Resist the urge to sink to an uncooperative parent’s level.

I know that the process of divorce and sharing custody is extremely challenging. Remind yourself that your ex-spouse has qualities that at one time attracted you. These traits are still available to your children. As time passes, the intensity of the emotions around the divorce will dissipate. When this happens, it will be easier for you to appreciate how the efforts you are making now for the sake of your children have paid off in the long run.

Sincerely,

Cathi

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