Co-Parenting Tips in a Divorce Situation – Divorce is an unfortunate but unavoidable reality for many families today. It is important for divorced parents to keep in mind some ground rules for successful co-parenting with an ex.
Co-Parenting Tips in a Divorce Situation (by Jaime Saal)
- Your children should not be put in the position of “messenger.” If you find it impossible to be on speaking terms with your ex-spouse, get in the habit of e-mailing each other about issues that affect the children. Keep the e-mails focused and, although difficult, try to leave emotion out.
- Do not hold it against your child if they show similarities to your ex-spouse, whether in hobbies, physical characteristics or aspects of their personality. After all, they do share DNA and/or life experiences. Even when frustrated with your child, resist the temptation to utter the words, “you are just like your father.” Your anger with your child is not about your ex-spouse and it is important for this to remain clear to your child…and to you.
- Part of a child’s psychological health includes having positive relationships with his/her primary caregivers. If it is logistically possible for your child to have a relationship with your ex-spouse, do what you can to support and encourage this. Creating obstacles in order to punish your ex is unfair to your child. You do not need to engage in a competition for your child’s affection; there is room in your child’s heart for the both of you.
- Try to keep a consistent schedule from one household to the next. Weekend/summer bedtimes and school night bedtimes should be established and enforced in both homes. Routines for proper hygiene, nutrition and learning should be emphasized in both homes so as not to create a “good cop/bad cop” situation (“Mom ALWAYS lets me stay up until midnight on Saturdays or “It’s SUMMER…dad told me I don’t have to READ in the summer!”)
- It may be difficult for your child to transition back into your household after spending time with your ex-spouse. This can be very normal (within reason). It can be tough for your child to conceptualize his/her parents as two separate individuals with different houses when you were once viewed as a unit. Let your child have some time to decompress if he/she needs it. As a parent, it IS okay to occasionally ignore a bit of attitude in an effort to avoid fruitless fights. If this attitude lingers for more than an hour or two after their return home, a discussion or appropriate punishment may be warranted.
- Set a good example for your ex. If you do your best to put your hurt aside and be cordial for the sake of the children, there is a greater likelihood that they will attempt to do the same.
- Make sure your family knows that bad-mouthing your ex in front of your children is inappropriate. Although their intention may be to support you, this can be damaging to your child. Talk to them about positive ways that they can offer support to you and your children.
- There is no hard and fast rule about when it is appropriate to introduce your children to your new romantic partner. Use good judgment. Do not bring someone home unless there is future potential. Make sure your child knows that you are not trying to replace their dad/mom. Reassure your children by telling them (and showing them) that they come first, no matter what. Be sure to devote one-on-one time to your children, even if you are in a relationship. Allow your kids to discuss their feelings about this difficult change and validate their confusion. Reiterate how much you love them and that, although things are changing, you will always be there for them.
ABOUT JAIME SAAL, MA, LPC, NCC
Jaime Saal is also the Executive Director of the Rochester Center for Behavioral Medicine. In her role as executive director, Jaime is responsible for human resources, quality assurance, insurance credentialing, clinical program development, the creation of website content, marketing, public relations, and overseeing the daily operations of our staff of thirty, under the leadership of medical director Joel L. Young, M.D. Jaime also assists Dr. Young with forensic consultation, research protocol development, and publication development.
Jaime is a master’s level mental health counselor and, in addition to her responsibilities as executive director, enjoys utilizing her therapeutic skills in conducting individual, couples and family therapy. Jaime uses the empirically validated Cognitive-Behavioral treatment modality and works closely with RCBM’s medical director and nurse practitioners within the medical model. Jaime works with adolescents, adults, and the elderly. Her primary areas of clinical interest are: mood and anxiety disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, stress management, and relationship issues.
To learn more about Co-Parenting Tips in a Divorce Situation, please visit www.rcbm.net. or call Rochester Center for Behavioral Medicine at 248-608-8800.
(Co-Parenting Tips in a Divorce Situation article originally posted in 2010)