Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dealing with Divorce: Co-Parenting after Divorce

Divorce is never easy. When parents have relationship problems and separate, not only do the children experience many different emotions but the parents do as well. It is important for parents to be able to manage their emotions so they can learn how to deal with divorce and find ways of successfully co-parenting the children.

There are several things that parents can do to cope with the difficulties of divorce and work together as parents:
  • Acknowledge and be honest with yourself about the difficulties in the relationship 
  • Reflect on the variety of feelings that emerge; do not try to bury the feelings, dealing with them gives you more control and those feelings are then less likely to emerge unexpectedly
  • Examine what the problems in the marriage/partnership mean and what they stir in you
  • Be sure to take care of yourself and allow time to do things that feel relaxing and relieve stress
  • Ensure that you have private space and time to regenerate
  • Create and use support systems (family, friends, support groups, therapy, social/community organizations – especially if the child has special needs)
  • Give yourself a chance to grieve the loss that comes with divorce
  • Be prepared for various questions from the child about the divorce and respond as honestly and age appropriately as possible without bringing the child into the middle
  • Do not let the negativity of the other parent get in your way of showing affection and reassurance to the child
  • Show appreciation for other parent’s efforts; acknowledge that parent’s commitment to and love for the child
  • Demonstrate an understanding of what the other parent is saying to show respect and that you are listening and trying to work together
  • Know when not to engage in un-necessary conversation; ignore and “let go” of some thing
  • Keep the focus and agenda on the child
  • Know your own and the other parent’s triggers and try to avoid them so conflict does not emerge
  • Try to be flexible but maintain consistency – avoid surprises, impromptu changes
  • Be reliable and follow through so the other parent and the child know they can trust you
  • View the relationship as a business arrangement – partners; keep communication formal and direct, if needed (email, text, phone) 
  • Do not avoid other parent because of personal difficulties; this means avoiding the child
  • Acknowledge that shared parenting will have its glitches and give it time; do not use it as an excuse to stop trying
  • Realize that plans will eventually be outgrown and need to be reworked 
Keeping these things in mind can ease the stress and emotional pain of divorce and help parents focus on what is most important - the children. The parents may no longer be a couple but they will always be parents together.

Lanksy, V. (1998). It’s not your fault Ko-ko bear. Book Peddlers: Minnetonka, MN
Ricci, I. (1997). Mom’s house, dad’s house: Making two homes for your child. Fireside Book: New York