Co-Parenting After Divorce

By Lisa Cossey – Courier & Press – June 30, 2015 –   In a perfect world, all marriages would have the “happily ever after” promised in fairy tales. Unfortunately, in the real world, some marriages end in divorce. For families in this situation the divorce may end the marriage, but it does not end the need to raise children together.

Some couples have no issues co-parenting beyond divorce; others have great challenges. For couples who are struggling, there are several things to consider when determining the best way to communicate.

First and foremost, it is helpful to remember to love your child more than you dislike your former spouse. Young children will continue to grow and have birthday parties, holidays, extracurricular activities, graduations, weddings, births of their own children, etc. On all of these occasions for years beyond the divorce, you will most likely have to interact with your former spouse. So why not set a good foundation for communication?

In addition to making your life smoother, parents who are able to communicate and interact well with one another set a good example when the children see parents working together. Remember, you are modeling appropriate communication and behavior for your children; therefore, respectful interactions are key. Some situations can be emotionally charged, and if you find it is too difficult to interact with your former spouse, reframe your thinking about the situation.

The marriage and personal relationship have ended, so think of the relationship now as a business partnership. When communicating, focus on the children and set a matter-of-fact tone using appropriate language. Make requests of your former spouse; don’t make demands.

In addition to showing respect for one another in front of the children, make sure you are respectful when the other parent isn’t around. The two parents may no longer love each other, but the children love both parents. Placing them in the middle to listen to negativity or complaints about the other parent only hurts the children.

Avoid making your child the messenger. This only puts unnecessary stress and pressure on the child. Boundaries should be set and maintained. Let the children be children. Don’t burden them with the adult responsibility of communication between parents.

If communication between parents in person or by phone is something that cannot be managed, email or texting are other options to consider. When using these methods, remember to keep the tone professional and stick to the topic to be addressed.

If you receive an emotional or heated email or text, give yourself a calming period and wait at least an hour before responding. This time allows you to compose your thoughts and rationally respond instead of sending a heated message back, adding fuel to the fire. Remember, you can only control yourself and your responses, so maintain focus on your own behavior and communication.

For parents who absolutely cannot communicate without a breakdown, there are resources available to make necessary communication easier and tolerable. Websites such as www.ourfamilywizard.com and www.cozi.com help divorced families with interactions. At www.cozi.com, families can create their own family calendar to manage visitation, scheduling of events, and communication between parents.

Healthy marriages and family life are what we strive for. But if “happily ever after” did not work out, consider these options when communicating and building your family life after divorce.