Mindful Co-Parenting TipsFeb 26, 2021 ● By Leah D. Setzen
Photo Credit Andrea Piacquadio for Pexels
the weather gets warmer and families start to come out of hibernation, concerns
naturally arise for divorcing and divorced parents about how to navigate
parenting separately but together for upcoming holidays, school events and
Studies abound that show the best indicator
of well-adjusted children of divorce is having parents that cooperate with each
other without conflict. A recent study from the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign found that children of high-conflict families fare worse than
children in low-conflict families, and post-divorce conflict has a strong
influence on children’s adjustment.
For separated or divorced parents that want
their children to be well-adjusted, there are several important ways to
Display a unified front: Whether parents are married, separated or divorced, children may try to
pit one against the other. When parents live in different homes and do not
consult with each other about parenting issues, the opportunity is ripe for
children to “game” them. In these situations, the best course of action is to
touch base with the other parent first before making a decision. The same goes
for punishment. A punishment lacks effectiveness if it is not enforced in both
homes, and disparate enforcement only reinforces to the child that parents can
be played against each other.
Communicate with the other
parent—but quality matters more than quantity: The most successful co-parenting involves
knowing when to involve the other parent and when to take a step back and not
micromanage. There are many online tools and apps that can be used for parental
communication, even when it may be difficult to have in-person or telephone
conversations. Many courts will order divorced parents to use these tools, which
also have features such as shared calendars and uploading capability for
receipts for reimbursement. But inundating the other parent with multiple
messages per day may wind up having a chilling effect on communication. The
best way to communicate is to consider it a business relationship and keep the
information brief and fact-based, omitting emotion from the communication and
focusing on the child’s needs.
Avoid conflict with the other
According to a study by the University of
California, Berkeley, ongoing conflict between divorced parents is extremely
detrimental to the children, particularly when the children have frequent
access to both parents that are hostile and uncooperative with each other.
Children should not be used as messengers between the parents. While the
romantic relationship with the other parent may be over, the parental
relationship lasts a lifetime. Treating the other parent with respect, even
during a disagreement, will pay dividends down the road.
Don’t speak negatively about the other parent to or in front of the children:
Parents do not always appreciate that
children are always listening and observing them. Consistently badmouthing the other parent to the children can have
long-term negative effects, and may morph into parental alienation, which,
according to Psychology Today, is when one parent “programs” a child to
denigrate the other parent in order to undermine and interfere with the child’s
relationship with the other parent. Not only does this denigration result in
the child’s emotional rejection of the targeted parent, but the alienation has
the potential to result in a court modifying parenting issues and transferring
physical custody of the child to the alienating parent.
The best way to successfully co-parent
children is to remember that parenting is a team sport. Treating team members
with respect and consideration is an investment in children’s good mental
health and adjustment for years to come.