Co-Parenting Tips for Divorced Parents

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How to Communicate After Divorce

Your marital union may be over, but you remain mom and dad. Having two loving parents who are actively involved in the lives of their children is what research shows is best for kids, no matter what the marital status of their parents. 
 
Shared parenting, or co-parenting, has been linked to better outcomes for children of all ages, across a wide range of emotional, behavioral and physical health measures, according to findings published by Linda Nielsen, a Wake Forest University professor.
 
Unless there are serious issues such as domestic violence or substance abuse that prevent one parent from sharing in the parental responsibilities, you will most likely still be joined together when it comes to the raising of your children, so here are a few tips to help you navigate this new relationship.

 

Keep it About the Kids

This new relationship between you and your ex is about your children, not one another.

It no longer matters why the marriage didn’t work or whose fault it was. What is important now is making sure the needs of your children are met, and to do that you must set a healthy example of how a respectful relationship should work.

Agree with your ex that disparaging one another in front of the kids or allowing the kids to speak disrespectfully about either parent is strictly forbidden. Most importantly, it is important to keep children out of disagreements and avoid using your children as messengers between you and your co-parent.
 

Work Toward Consistency

You are co-parenting to provide your children with stability and support. You can’t be working at cross-purposes with your ex, trying to outshine them as the cool or the responsible parent.
 
Work with your ex on a detailed plan for raising your kids that focuses on creating boundaries and rules that work for you. Consistent routines between homes can be beneficial if they are the right fit for co-parents.
 

Consistency Isn't Always Equal

Doing what is best for your child may not always equate to a 50-50 split. If one parent travels frequently, it might make more sense for the children to spend more time with the other parent. If your co-parent has always taken the kids to their sports practices, consider if that will be the case if it is your weekend. Talk to your children (without putting them in the middle) if they are old enough to express their opinions. Consider their feelings and remember the most important thing is meeting the needs of your kids.
 

Keep it Professional

Think of your new relationship with your spouse like a business. You wouldn’t disparage your co-workers or boss, even when you disagree. You can’t do it in this situation either. Communicate as you would with a colleague, cordially, respectfully and clearly. Make requests of your co-parent, not demands. Don’t criticize, blame or accuse him or her. If you catch yourself starting a sentence with “You always” or “You never,” consider restating it. Avoid using profanity with your co-parent, as you wouldn't in the workplace.
 
Make appointments to talk about the business of your children just like you would at work. Prepare meeting notes ahead of time. This is the time to address schedules, academic reports, or behavioral issues. Ensure you both walk away with a clear understanding of what the next steps are going to be and why. Be prepared to compromise.
 

Find an Outlet

Your children are not your outlet for expressing hurt feelings, feelings of anger or even hostility toward your ex. For example, when you arrive to pick up your kids from a visit with the other parent, don’t sit in the car and angrily honk the horn for the kids to come out. This is going to stress your kids out.

Your children also are not your caretakers. You can’t expect them to be your movie-night companion or to forego a party with friends this weekend because last weekend they were at the other parent’s home. Your kids still need to be kids. Recognize that there is going to be grief and loss as a result of the divorce, including loss of time with your kids. Be prepared to work out your feelings with a counselor or other professional and seek support from friends and relatives to help you through the tough times.


TalkingParents blogs are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with a qualified attorney regarding legal matters.