Children need and deserve the love care and support of both their parents. Divorce is hard on kids. Both parents must work together to help their children to feel safe, secure and loved.
In Hawaii custody cases, parents are required to file the Parenting Plan forms provided by the court. Although it is not always appropriate, child psychologists believe it is important for divorcing couples to co-parent.
What is Co-parenting?
“Co-Parenting” is when both parents work together as a team to raise their children, even after the marriage is over. Co-parenting classes are offered in Honolulu so that parents can learn the communication skills necessary to co-parent as a team.
Co-parenting amicably with your ex-spouse can give your children stability and close relationships with both parents–but it’s rarely easy. Putting aside relationship issues to co-parent agreeably can be fraught with stress. Despite the many challenges, though, it is possible to develop a respectful working relationship for the sake of the children.
Co-parenting After a Divorce
Custody arrangements, especially after an acrimonious split, can be exhausting and infuriating. It can be extremely difficult to get past the painful history you may have with your ex-spouse and overcome any built-up resentment. Making shared decisions, interacting with each another at drop-offs, or just speaking to a person you’d rather forget all about can seem like impossible tasks. But while it’s true that co-parenting isn’t an easy solution, it is the best way to ensure your children’s needs are met and they are able to retain close relationships with both parents.
It may be helpful to start thinking of your relationship with your ex-spouse as a completely new one—one that is entirely about the well-being of your children, and not about either of you. Your marriage may be over, but your family is not; doing what is best for your kids is your most important priority. The first step to being a mature, responsible co-parent is to always put your children’s needs ahead of your own.
Co-parenting is the Best Option
Through your parenting partnership, your kids should recognize that they are more important than the conflict that ended the marriage—and understand that your love for them will prevail despite changing circumstances. Kids whose divorced parents have a cooperative relationship feel secure and safe, loved, have consistency and stability and learn how to model healthy problem solving.
Setting Hurt and Anger Aside
The key to co-parenting is to focus on your children—and your children only. That’s difficult. It means that your own emotions—any anger, resentment, or hurt—must take a back seat to the needs of your children. Admittedly, setting aside such strong feelings may be the hardest part of learning to work cooperatively with the other parent, but it’s critical to the stability and well being of your children. Co-parenting is not about your feelings but rather about your child’s happiness, stability, and future well-being.
Protecting Children from Parental Disputes
Never involve a child in your custody dispute. There’s a term for parents who do that. It’s called child abuse. Keep your issues away from your children.
- Never use kids as messengers. When you have your child tell the other parent something for you, it puts him or her in the center of your conflict. The goal is to keep your child out of your relationship issues, so call, text or email the spouse yourself.
- Keep your issues to yourself. Never say negative things about the other parent or make them feel like they have to choose. Your child has a right to a relationship with his or her other parent that is free of your influence.
Communication may be difficult. It’s not always necessary to meet in person—speaking over the phone or exchanging texts or emails is fine for the majority of conversations. The goal is to establish conflict-free communication, so see which type of contact works best for you. Whether talking via email, phone, or in person, the following methods can help you initiate and maintain effective communication:
- Set a business-like tone. Approach the relationship as a business partnership where your “business” is your children’s well-being. Speak or write to as you would to a co-worker—with respect.
- Make requests. Instead of making statements, which can be misinterpreted as demands, try framing as much as you can as requests. Requests can begin “Would you be willing to…?” or “Can we try…?”
- Listen. Communicating with maturity starts with listening. Even if you end up disagreeing with the other parent, you should at least be able to convey that you have understood his or her point of view. And listening does not signify approval, so you won’t lose anything by allowing the other parent to voice his or her opinions.
- Show restraint. Communication will be necessary for a long time. At least until your child is 18 and hopefully longer. You can train yourself to not overreact.
- Commit to meeting/talking consistently. Frequent communication will convey the message to your children that you and their other parent are a united front. This may be extremely difficult in the early stages of your divorce or separation.
- Keep conversations kid-focused. You can control the content of your communication. Never let a discussion with the other parent digress into a conversation about your needs or his/her needs; it should always be about your child’s needs only.
Making transitions easier
The actual move from one household to another, whether it happens every few days or just on weekends, can be a very hard time for children. Transitions represent a major change in your children’s reality. Every reunion with one parent is also a separation from the other; each “hello” is also a “goodbye.” In most custody arrangements, transition time is inevitable, but there are many things you can do to help make exchanges and transitions easier.