In our years of working with parents going through divorce, the most common question we hear is, “What will our divorce to our kids?” Our reply is that parents have a lot of control over whether their divorce becomes a momentary crisis or a lasting trauma in their children’s lives. The key is parents’ ability to put their children’s needs ahead of their own and make decisions together on their children’s behalf.
This is not easy to do at a time of high emotion and disappointment over the ending of the marriage. But our experience has shown us that it can be done.
At the very least we encourage parents to think of their co-parent relationship as an important business partnership they co-own at whose center are priceless assets for which they are both responsible. You don’t have to like your co-owner for your business to run well but you do have to communicate clearly, consistently and with respect in order to make good decisions together.
Some examples of putting your children’s needs first include:
- Sitting together at your child’s sporting event in order to cheer him or her on
- Being able to attend the same family gathering without your children needing to worry that there will be tension between you
- Keeping the reasons for your divorce between the two of you and away from your kids
- Communicating frequently and directly with your co-parent about your children rather than using your children as messengers between you
- Talking respectfully about your co-parent to your children and others your children know
- Talking respectfully with your co-parent especially when your children are within earshot
- Committing to act in trustworthy ways by saying what you will do and doing what you say so that your co-parent and your kids know what they can count on from you
- Being as flexible as possible with your co-parent when unexpected scheduling conflicts arise
- Doing your best to resolve disagreements about your kids and seeking professional assistance if help is needed
In the end, effective co-parenting helps kids to feel safe, loved, out of the middle and hopeful. It enables your kids to focus on a future that does not continue to be defined by your divorce. We at Our Family Forward want to actively support parents on their journey to becoming effective co-parents.