Ending a marriage is one thing. Once the divorce is final, you no longer have that person as a spouse. You are single. If you have children from your marriage, however, being single again probably doesn’t mean you have no relationship with your ex. Welcome to the world of co-parenting.
Courts in Maryland and throughout the country are working more and more with the idea that kids do best when both parents are equal parts of their lives. This might mean that kids spend half of their time with one parent and half of their time with the other. This co-parenting situation requires cooperation between exes — which can be difficult.
A mediator shares some tips in the Huffington Post about what co-parents should think about in order to try to protect their children and their relationships with their children.
A crucial step is a calm, honest conversation about how often the parents expect to communicate with each other and any communication boundaries they should set. An overarching goal of setting these expectations is to prevent hostility and negative talk within the family unit.
Will both parents be able to healthily co-exist at public events or shared holidays? If not, how will those events be divvied up between the two and how can the children be made to understand this arrangement without feeling hurt? How does each parent feel about negative talk in the past and for the future? How can such harmful behavior be kept away from the kids? Do both parents see that negative talk is not okay?
Honesty and realism are important in this co-parenting conversation. Identifying and addressing unhealthy behaviors that occurred during the marriage is the only way that parents can identify what needs to be changed. But both parents have to want to make the changes if they want the new family setup to work. If one or the other doesn’t want to change, a co-parenting relationship can become more difficult.
Nothing about family is easy. Being a part of a family unit comes with chaos, emotions and overwhelming responsibility. Divorce certainly can put a strain on everyone. Strong families take work, and those families can remain strong when co-parents put in the work that they know their kids deserve.