Co-parenting and Custody – How to help your children handle a divorce or separation
Divorce or separation is often a highly volatile and emotional transition. Many times, couples would like to divide their assets, walk away, and never speak to each other again. However, when these individuals have children in common, avoidance is not possible. In Pennsylvania, many couples have shared custody, meaning both parents share equal time with their children. Even when one parent has the children more than the other, all separated or divorced parents must learn how to raise their children together. All divorced or separated parents should strive to co-parent as effectively as possible to avoid any negative effects of the divorce or separation on their children. The following tips can help you develop a positive co-parenting relationship with your ex.
Communicate – Communication is the key to success in any relationship, especially a co-parenting relationship. Keep your ex informed about your child’s education, extracurricular activities, health, and other important day-to-day aspects of your child’s life.
Avoid putting your children in a position where they have to choose between either parent – Divorce can be a traumatizing experience for any child. After their parents separate or divorce, children experience a wide range of conflicting emotions that they must make sense of. Putting your child in the middle of your battles with their other parent will only compound their stress and make the experience harder on them. You should avoid circumstances where your child will feel put in the middle.
Don’t talk negatively about your ex in front of your child – Young children have very impressionable minds and there are few people they hold in higher esteem than their parents. Hearing one parent talk negatively about their other parent can damage your child’s relationship with the other parent permanently – something that your child could end up resenting you for in the end. To help your child through the transition period, talk positively about your ex in front of your child and try to focus on any good qualities that they may have.
Don’t use your child as a messenger – A divorce or separation is just as challenging for your child as it is for you. To avoid any added stress and trauma to your child, strive to communicate directly with your ex instead of using your child to pass messages back and forth. If you find your ex extremely difficult to communicate with, there are resources that you can use to assist in achieving effective communication. For example, the Our Family Wizard website is a tool available to divorced parents that allows them to send messages back and forth and allows them to share a family calendar with the custody schedule and other important dates.
Be flexible – Things come up. Schedules change. You cannot control everything. Although formal custody arrangements are necessary for almost all divorced parents, many parents will have to deviate from their custody agreements from time to time. If your son’s annual fishing trip with dad falls during your custody time, let him go. Switch a weekend and make up your time later. Being flexible will allow you to develop a healthy co-parenting relationship with your ex. It will also make your child happy, which is what co-parenting is all about.
For those parents who truly find themselves having trouble co-parenting, they may find it beneficial to seek the advice of a professional through co-parenting counseling. Co-parenting classes are also available to assist parents in adjusting to their new way of life. The experienced attorneys at McMorrow Law can help you through your divorce or separation and assist you in achieving a healthy co-parenting relationship with your ex. Contact us today at 724-940-0100.