What is Co-parenting?
After parents separate, either in divorce or just a break up, the best thing for everyone is an option known as co-parenting. No matter what the custody arrangement is, co-parenting is the process of coordinating efforts between all of the children’s guardians. The idea is to foster open communication and consistency between the parenting partners so that there is as little disruption in the children’s life when transitioning from one parent or guardian to the other.
Is My Divorce Ruining My Child?
You will probably be relieved to hear that the answer is no. Children are very resilient creatures, and can adjust fairly well to most changes in their lives. The way they react will depend heavily upon how they are told about the divorce, how old they are when you divorce, and what the marriage had been like up until that point. However they react, there are several things that you can do to make the transition easier for them.
Explain to your children that they are still loved. Make clear that the decision to separate has nothing to do with them. No matter how much your children beg or ask about the two of you getting back together be very firm that the two of you have made this decision, and this is how it will be from now on. Focus on any positives. While divorce is full of many negative emotions, try to focus on how divorce will make things better, such as them not having to listen to their parents fight anymore. Show that you and your spouse are a unified front, and that you are not going to bad mouth each other behind each other’s back.
Be wishy-washy when you tell them. For example, saying something like, “mommy and daddy haven’t been getting along for awhile so we are going to live apart for a little bit, but we don’t know what that means for the future.” If this is the truth, that’s one thing. However, if you know you are getting divorced, be honest with them. Bad mouth your ex-spouse to your children. This is a horrible thing to do to them. It is still their parent that you are talking about, and unless their parent is dangerous in some way, there is no need to discuss all of your ex’s flaws with them. Use your children as messengers. These days, you and your ex can easily communicate without ever having to meet face to face. There is texting and emailing and even great programs out there like Family Wizard that record each email sent, and will also let you know if the message you are about to send sounds too harsh so you can take a second and rethink what you are saying.
Should my child see a professional? I think just about every child would benefit from having someone to talk to while their parents are divorcing, since they can find it hard to talk to their parents about their feelings at that point. If your child’s mood has changed recently, it would be time to take him or her in to see a psychologist for therapy.
Children Are Resilient, But….
Their parents getting divorced is still a huge disruption in their lives. They have never experienced anything like it. It is totally normal for them to begin acting out. If they are younger, they might have tantrums over what seems like very small stuff. If they are older, they may just scream at you and storm out of the room on a regular basis. Consistency in how you react matters tremendously. The more consistent you are, and their routine is, the more quickly they will adjust to their new life situation.