Tips for Healthy Co-Parenting After Divorce

Some divorces are amicable and arise from a mutual understanding that the marriage will not work. More likely, however, is that in the aftermath of a divorce at least one party will want nothing to do with the other ex-spouse. When children are involved, however, that is not a workable solution. Co-parenting in a productive and healthy environment after divorce is possible, although it does require some hard work. While you can find many great parenting tips on the web, this article boils it down to three basic rules.

Do Your Best to Remove Negative Emotions and Conflict

Hurt, anger, frustration and sadness are common emotions when dealing with an ex-spouse, especially soon after divorce. However, over-communicating these emotions to your ex is not productive. Try to keep discussions professional and goal-driven, rather than emotionally charged. Listen to the other spouse and make requests, not demands. If the emotions are simply too strong to maintain a calm environment, use written correspondence.

Especially unhelpful is communicating negative feelings about your ex to your children. While children should know why you are divorcing (although they do not need to know details), airing grievances about an ex to your kids may make them feel as if they have to take sides and add stress to their relationships with their parents. Instead, find a trusted friend or counselor who can listen to any issues and problems you experience regarding your divorce.

Establish Routines

Children, especially young children, do well with routine. Establishing a new routine as soon as possible can ease the transition for the whole family. In the initial stages, explain to your children where they will live and go to school, and remind them constantly that you love them. Remind the children a day or two in advance when they'll be spending time with the other parent. Be consistent and on time when dropping off and picking up the children.

Discuss Important Issues in Advance

Rather than resolving disputes as they come up, try to anticipate potential big issues up front. If possible, agree about age-appropriate ground rules for the children that must be followed regardless of which parent is in charge. Bedtime, curfew, gift-giving and permission for certain activities should be consistent as much as possible. If there are differences between households, such as with what chores the children are responsible for, a frank discussion with the children of the reasons behind the differences is helpful - again, however, try not to disparage the other parent. If you have teenagers, talk with the other parent about such issues as school attendance, substance abuse and sexuality. Consistent enforcement of rules and agreeing on the punishment for certain behaviors can help teenagers understand there are consequences for their actions.

Co-parenting after divorce does not mean you have to be best friends with an ex-spouse or see eye-to-eye on every parenting issue. However, a workable relationship can provide stability for the whole family and ensure that both parents have an active, positive relationship with their children.

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