Successful Shared Parenting
● By Digital Media Director
and co-parenting can be a difficult task after a divorce, especially if there
is a strained relationship between ex-spouses. Developing a successful strategy
can allow children who have been impacted by divorce to enjoy stability,
security and consistency. While a marriage or romantic relationship may not
have worked out, there is still the opportunity to successfully co-parent.
As family law attorneys, we have witnessed children thrive under co-parenting agreements and orders. However, successful co-parents follow some general rules and advice that are critical to this success.
1. Separate personal feelings from parenting decisions.
Doing what is best for the children should be the top priority. Don’t speak poorly about ex-spouses. Children should not be used to convey messages or be exposed to negative comments. They have a right to a relationship with their other parent that is not influenced by negative feelings.
2. Engage in positive and frequent communication.
Communication with an ex-spouse should be purposeful and consistent. Conversations should focus on the children and their needs. Consistent communication between ex-spouses can help children understand that, when it comes to parenting, there is still a united front focused on their well-being. Utilize communication channels that work best for the situation. Google calendars, texting, and emailing can help ease the stress of having to talk to an ex-spouse on a frequent basis.
3. Develop and follow shared custody schedules.
Shared custody arrangements should accommodate the needs of the children. Parents should consider the age and personality of the children, the work commitments of each parent and the activities of each child. The transition from one home to another can be stressful for children. While they are excited to see one parent, they are inevitably being separated from the other.
There are things parents can to do help ease the stress:
§ Remind children of the schedule and when they will be leaving for the other parent’s house.
§ Help them pack well before they leave to reduce the likelihood of forgetting something important.
§ Keep a set of basic items at each home (toothbrush, pajamas) to help simplify and reduce packing.
§ Keep a consistent routine at each home as much as possible. Parenting styles may differ, but children thrive with a routine. Keeping things like bedtime, mealtime and homework as consistent as possible will help children feel more comfortable.
4. Parents make and mostly agree upon decisions.
Children need to understand what is expected of them, and the best way to avoid confusion is to agree as much as possible on the same basic expectations. Rules and discipline may not be exactly the same between the two households, but generally consistent guidelines, such as curfew, consequences for breaking the rules, or rewards for good behavior can help avoid confusion. For example, if a child lost their privilege to play X-Box at one house, both parents should follow through with the restriction.
Ex-spouses are likely to disagree over certain issues. Prevent conflict as much as possible by communicating openly. Pick your battles and decide which issues are open to compromise and which ones are not. Being considerate, respectful and flexible will go a long way towards reaching a consensus and modeling healthy communication.
Having divorced or separated parents does not have to be traumatic for a child. But whether a child suffers from his or her parents separating depends almost entirely on how the parents work together following their separation. A custody arrangement, whether shared equally or otherwise, that puts a child’s well-being first will benefit everyone involved. When each parent puts the child’s best interest over his or her own interests, the child will adjust to the separation and enjoy a fulfilling childhood like his or her peers with married parents.