“You don’t really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around-and why his parents will always wave back.”
How Will You Know?
You met someone nice. You fell in love. From this union of love, you have produced children. For these children, you would gladly move the world in another direction, sacrifice your personal conveniences, and generally give your life over to see them grow up strong, healthy, and well adjusted.
But, the court has sent down the edict that mutual custody is the best option and you are now required to share these offspring with a person you have decided is not your soul mate. In the best scenario, you and your former spouse have mutually agreed upon a co-parenting process.
Now, the next step is how you implement this. How do you see that your children are psychologically, emotionally, and physically cared for in meaningful ways that will ensure their continued success as human begins in a 21st century world that often seems like it is doing everything it can to deprive children of the chance to actually be children.
How can you minimize the impact of separation and/or divorce on their identities and self-esteem? How are you going to coordinate the myriad of trips to the doctor, schools, plays, birthday parties, and every other demand on a child’s and their parent’s time?
In a word: co-operation.
Let’s let the “co” in the word co-parenting stand for “cooperation.” Co-parenting can work if the process is viewed as a mutual and equal responsibility. It must not start or become an adversarial struggle. If the divorce procedures have been adversarial and consistently confrontational, full of emotional baggage, then the co-parenting process will only be a parallel parenting and not cooperative parenting.
Suggestions for Success
“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” –Baldwin-
Make a plan for co-parenting success in your divorce decree. Be very thorough and don’t leave the decision to just “working it out later.” If you do not think things through, then you may find yourself back in court and paying other attorney’s fees.
In regard to finances, it is ok to begin with the fact that responsibilities will be split 50/50. But, add to this agreement a detailed list of what you both think the future expenses will be for the child/children. Be willing to sit down in the future to rethink or restructure who will pay for certain things. Economic times, personal financial standing, and the actual cost of things change over years and decades. What was once a good plan for the year of your divorce may not work 10 years later. Be aware of this.
Schedule meetings with your co-parent and keep the appointments. These meetings will not only allow you the time to sort out emergency situations and make sure everything is still on track for the children, but they communicate to the other parent that this process is important enough to set aside regularly scheduled times for communication. This can keep communication open and the post-divorce relationship friendly.
Consider the fact that at some time in the future, a new mate or spouse may be introduced to the co-parenting formula. This new person may or may not influence your former spouse’s relationship to the children, but it is likely they will on some level. It is statistically evident that people who divorce often remarry. How well this new spouse is integrated into the family is dependent upon how well the children accept them and the genetic parent’s ability to encourage the children to accept them. Be willing to accept this new person into the co-parenting formula. However, should issues arise that are unsolvable, do not hesitate to seek professional counseling for help in either adjusting to the situation or resolving conflict.
Keep an attitude of politeness and respect in your communication with the co-parent. Try to ask for things and refrain from telling. Everyone has busy schedules and taking care to be polite will go a long way in keeping the co-parenting process working.
Probably the simplest thing to think about when trying to keep the co-parenting wheels turning is the fact that both parents need to be living in the general area. The goal here is to understand that the social relationships and activities of the child/children are the primary factor. Co-parents living far apart will find the added burden of distance to profoundly limit their ability to assist the children and cooperate fully with the former spouse.
Results of Good Co-parenting
“Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted. –Keillor-
So, doing the aforementioned things and including a deep motivation to make co-parenting work will do a great deal to limit the psychological impact of a separation/divorce on the children. It is important to understand that the child/children must come to recognize they are more important than the issues that caused the divorce. They must intuitively know your love for them continues despite the potentially topsy-turvy circumstances they may experience.
A co-operative parenting process that is working well will communicate certain things to the children. If the co-parenting relationship is consistent and both parents have agreed upon rules, discipline and rewards, then the child/children will know what is expected of them. They will experience a sense of security that will garnish to them great benefits in the future as they go through adolescence and into young adulthood.
Stable co-parenting will produce children who are confident of their parent’s love and this will, in turn serve to create better self-esteem and the ability to solve the problems of each developmental life stage. Healthy co-parenting gives a child a role model to use when solving their own problems. If they see that parents are willing to remain flexible and adapt to change well, then they will become people who can do the same.