Parenting is a unique experience and only those members of an individual family can truly understand the challenges of parenthood, whether married or divorced. However, the following tips adapted from HelpGuide.org can provide some insight into how to approach co-parenting in a healthy and productive way that keeps the true focus of your parenting where it should be – on the children.
Benefits of Co-Parenting
In recent decades, many states, including Florida, have started approaching custody issues with the presumption that a child’s best interests are served when that child is allowed to maintain a close and meaningful relationship with both parents. Typically, this means courts will try to find a way to ensure that parenting plans successfully address issues surrounding co-parenting and take into consideration the benefits of shared physical custody in many cases. When parents are able to make the most out of co-parenting through cooperation and communication, children often receive benefits that can include:
- Having healthy role models to look up to;
- Feeling more secure, in part due to the consistency co-parenting can bring;
- Having a better understanding problem-solving, and how to approach it; and
- Being mentally and emotionally healthier.
Of course, co-parenting is not right for every family or in every situation. There are extreme circumstances that can make co-parenting dangerous or even impossible, and courts will work with you to try and determine if your circumstances fall into these exceptions.
Focus on Communication
One of the most important factors in the success of co-parenting is having both parents focus on positive, productive communication with each other as well as with the children. While this may be a difficult task, particularly immediately following a divorce when emotions likely still run high, the significant positive impact successful communication can have on co-parenting and all of the relationships involved in it cannot be underestimated. Communication helps you avoid conflict while still retaining the ability to set clear and consistent expectations both for the child’s other parent and the children themselves.
Active listening is a key component of successful communication. Both in marriage and divorce, chances are you want your child’s other parent to listen to points you feel are important to make. That means that you need to provide the same opportunity. When the child’s co-parent or the child has questions, concerns, or issues related to co-parenting, make sure you take the time to truly listen to them. Try not to be dismissive, but work towards finding understanding and common ground to help make sure everyone is heard and that adjustments are made even when it may inconvenience you. That does not mean you have to spend your time and energy going out of your way to be submissive to the other parent’s demands each time one is made, but you need to approach issues with a reasonable amount of flexibility.
Put Your Emotions Aside
Finalizing a divorce does not make anger, frustration, hurt, or other emotions related to the divorce magically disappear. These emotions can and do linger, often for long periods of time. It is important to acknowledge and understand your emotions, especially when it comes to divorce. Doing so can help you understand how you respond to certain situations or triggers, and can help you manage the level of conflict that can accompany co-parenting. Understanding your emotions can also help you keep them in check, particularly when conflict arises with a co-parent – and it likely will.
One of the most important ways to keep your emotions under control is to stay consistently focused on your kids. If the child’s co-parent is late bringing them back from weekend visitation, it can be frustrating on a number of levels. However, instead of being angry about how much it may inconvenience you, it is often a better approach to calmly explain that the child’s success in school and other areas of life depends on their ability to have time for homework, extracurricular activities, and other endeavors that could be negatively impacted by failure to adhere to a parenting schedule. Remember, bringing a child back late may have less to do with making you angry than you might think. Sometimes, mistakes really do happen. Unless it is happening consistently, you will find approaching the situation with the child’s needs as your primary focus will help you get a lot further than blowing up about how tired you will be all week as a result.
Approach Co-Parenting as a Team Effort
Prior to your divorce, you probably shared parenting responsibilities on a regular basis. No matter the court’s determination on the terms of your custody arrangement, you need to continue approaching parenting as a team effort. If one parent is awarded sole legal custody but you share physical custody, that does not mean that both parents should not be involved in important decisions that affect the child’s well-being as well as each parent’s relationship with the child. One of the quickest ways to end up back in court over custody issues is to become stubborn about certain decisions and start to exclude one parent from important life choices and/or experiences. Even in situations in which communication is difficult, it may still be possible for you and the child’s other parent to share parenting responsibilities and successfully be there for the child in important and formative ways. The only way to do that is to work together.
Do Not Take it Personally
Much like being aware of your emotions and keeping them under control is an extremely important part of co-parenting, letting go of negative feelings and not taking things personally can go a long way. Not only does this apply to conflicts that will arise in the course of co-parenting, but this also applies to situations in which you may need to return to court to revisit parenting plans or custody agreements. While you may feel you are being dragged back into court out of spite, there is often a legitimate concern that the other parent wants addressed. This is why it is important to maintain a relationship with your divorce attorney. They are familiar with the nuances and details associated with your divorce and the settlement related to it, and likely in the best position to help you modify custody or other arrangements that were a part of your divorce settlement. If you have questions about co-parenting or Florida divorce and how these things might affect you, or if you are interested in looking into modifying orders related to your divorce settlement, contact Scott J. Stadler to schedule a consultation where you can find out more information about the questions you have regarding Florida divorce.