4 Key Strategies for Successful Co-Parenting After Divorce

About the Author
Rosalind Sedacca is a divorce & parenting coach, author, and expert in child-centered divorce.

co-parenting after divorce can be positive

Co-Parenting After Divorce

While divorce can seem like an overwhelming obstacle, for many parents it is just the beginning of a new and equally intimidating challenge: co-parenting your children. Hopefully, if you’re reading this you are still involved in your children’s lives, and hopefully co-parenting. I write under the assumption that you both care deeply about your children and trying to raise with them with as little exposure to conflict as possible.

Of course not all parents can share the parenting process in this way and for some couples it is not the ideal situation to even attempt it. But those couples who are determined to co-parent and choose to live relatively close to one another so as not to disturb the school, sports and other related schedules of their children, certainly deserve credit and acknowledgement.

This is a complex topic that can’t be glossed over with a few simple how-tos. It is based on sincere levels of communication and a sense of trust between the former spouses. When handled with care, your children enjoy the security and comfort of being with their other parent when they are not with you. You are less dependent on strangers as caretakers in their lives, and that is a win-win all around.

One of the best things you can do for your children is to transition smoothly to co-parenting with your former spouse. It won’t always be easy and there will certainly be challenges along the way, but here are some things to remember that will help make your new co-parenting relationship work.

• Don’t bad-mouth your ex around the kids, ever! If kids ask questions, give them age- appropriate answers that are honest but not judgmental. Kids are hurt and feel guilty when the parent they love is put-down by their other parent.

• Always offer your ex the opportunity for special times with the kids – before involving a new relationship partner, i.e.: taking your teen for their drivers test or tryouts for a new sport.

• Prioritize Mom and Dad being together for special occasion: celebrating birthdays, graduations and other significant events. Be considerate of one another as co-parents to eliminate stress so your kids can enjoy a sense of family.

• You and your ex won’t agree on all things so decide to pick your battles regarding parenting issues. Determine what’s worth discussing and what you can’t control and need to release.

When you ignore any of these basic communication principles, you set yourself up for conflict, jealousy, stress and tension. Breaking these rules sabotages your sense of trust with your ex and that opens the door to mind games, retaliations and discord for everyone in the family. Remember: when that happens, your children are the ones who pay the price!

Be the hero in your relationship with your children’s other parent. Cooperate. Collaborate. Be flexible and do favors. You are much more likely to get them back in return.

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About the Author ()

Rosalind Sedacca is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and author of the internationally acclaimed guidebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children – with Love! It can be found at http://www.howdoitellthekids.com. Her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, free articles, free ezine and other valuable resources for parents are all available at http://www.childcentereddivorce.com.

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Comments (7)

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  1. While co-parenting can be challenging, parents who take that track are rewarded by providing their children with greater support and stability after a divorce. These important tips will help you be a better co-parent today and long into the future.

  2. Thank you, Ben. The Child-Centered Divorce Network strongly supports mediation for the very reason you mention, to get divorcing parents off to the best possible start, following divorce, on behalf of their kids. We love working with experienced professionals like you who are committed to guiding the way to a successful outcome.

  3. JOAN says:

    Sadly, while this article portrays the ideal situation for parents to co-parent. When dealing with a narcissistic ex, not only will none of this work but it will actually make things worse as the narcissist gets total control over the other parent.

    • Ben Stich says:

      Some of the suggestions in this article do represent the ideal, Joan. And as we all know there are real factors that make some of this exceedingly difficult. I think the take-away is to make decisions with the children’s best interest as the primary driver. Unfortunately, if one parent has some issues the other parent somehow needs to accept who their co-parenting partner is — good, bad and indifferent — and then make decisions that are good for the kids, even if it may not always feel good for you.

      I recently had the good fortune of observing a court-ordered high conflict divorce group with four couples. It is the 7th of nine sessions. One couple hadn’t even spoken in seven years and the others had great disdain for one another. They are what the courts consider frequent flyers. The group leaders were fabulous and the participants were applying the skills and strategies that were being taught — and everything was about the children, not about each other. Some of these folks are going to need ongoing professional support to maintain the positive momentum. I know as a fact that one or two think their partner is narcissistic — they are finding ways to work within those parameters (they are what they are) to follow some of the principles Rosalind advocates to improve the outcomes for their kids. It can be painful and stressful for the other parent, but better for the kids. It’s a tough balance.

      One caveat — if abuse, neglect or DV are part of the equation safety comes before anything.

  4. Sadly not all co-parents understand the consequences of their behaviors, especially as it affects their innocent children. In some cases we need special coaching skills to handle conflict or co-parents who don’t want to cooperate. But we can’t give up being good role models for our children. So we can’t resort to tactics that we know are likely to result in higher conflict and greater stress for the children. We need to learn ways to handle difficult co-parents in the most effective manner for our family dynamic. And yes, this isn’t always easy.

  5. Well said, Ben. Thanks for clarifying the intention behind cooperative co-parenting on behalf of our children.

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