Co-Parenting Through Divorce
The reality of divorce is that you are separated from your children for periods of time, and they are separated from you. Their reaction to this change in their life is the most important part of divorce. Divorce affects children for the rest of their lives, and how you, as their parents, decide how to relate and get along determines how well they do.
It is important to observe their behavior continuously because it is the clue to how they are adjusting to the separation, not only at the beginning of the divorce, but throughout their lives. There will be times when they will want to talk about their reality and their feelings. It is at that time they will need you and the estranged parent.
This will happen not just once, but many times. This is what co-parenting is about. You continue parenting together after divorce, and despite your marriage relationship changing, your parenting responsibilities do not totally change. You are available for your children, and you let them know the other parent is available as well. As parents, you discuss your children’s needs and make decisions about them together. Although the connection between you as marriage partners is broken, the connection between you as parents continues. Your bond changes, but it is not broken, and your children experience the benefits that connection.
Does co-parenting seem impossible? Does it seem impractical? Are you asking yourself why you would want even to consider this idea? The answer to all of these questions is if you do not try co-parenting, your children are going to suffer needlessly. Yes, children do suffer in divorce. If you deny that reality, you are denying your children’s needs.
The world changed when divorce became an epidemic, but it has always affected children. If you are an adult child of divorce, no matter what age you are, you will relate to the realities discussed. If you are a parent, you will realize that a destructive divorce continues the suffering of your children. However, co-parenting is an alternative that works for some families. It diminishes the suffering. You may think there is too much pain or too many differences in your situation for it to work. That may be true.
When parents agree to co-parent, they inform each other how the children are adjusting. It is important for parents to remember that the children’s perception of their reality is now based on what they experienced during the separation from you. You will want to "pick up where you left off with the children after a separation. This can be difficult since there is usually an adjustment period needed. Sharing information with your co-parent about the time you each spent with your children makes the divorce easier for them. Understanding what they experienced will make it easier for you to give them the time they need to readjust. Learning how to parent difficult or different behavior and listening to what children need to talk about is necessary. Those experiences include the good things they experienced as well as the difficult ones.
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SEPARATE FEELINGS FROM BEHAVIOR – Successful co-parents focus on the child -- and only the child. Any anger, resentment, or hurt takes a back seat to the child's needs. Co-parenting is not about the adults’ feelings but rather about the child’s happiness, stability, and future.
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