Mediation Matters – What is Co-Parenting?
What does divorce mean?
Divorce and or the separation of co-habitants who have lived together as husband and wife leads to a re-organization of responsibilities of the two parties or (parents) when there are children involved. There are the issues of child custody and access, and child support, and communication.
The effects of divorce on children
Divorce introduces a massive change into the life of a boy or girl no matter what the age. Witnessing loss of love between parents, having parents break their marriage commitment, adjusting to going back and forth between two different households, and the daily absence of one parent while living with the other, all create a challenging new family circumstance in which to live. In the personal history of the boy or girl, parental divorce is a watershed event. Life that follows is significantly changed from how life was before.
What do children need from their parents after a divorce?
Above all, children need to know that they will not be abandoned, physically or emotionally, by either of their parents. Reassure them by first of all creating a safe environment for the discussion, and a safe way to express their feelings of shock and confusion, self-blame, fear, grief and sadness, anger, or guilt. Recognize that divorce is a long-term process for children, not a one-time event, and be prepared to have several such talks. If possible, talk with your children together as parents, reassuring them that you will cooperate in the future.
I need both of you to stay involved in my life. Please call me, email, text, and ask me lots of questions. When you don’t stay involved, I feel like I’m not important and that you don’t really love me.
Please stop fighting and work hard to get along with each other. Try to agree on matters related to me. When you fight about me, I think that I did something wrong and I feel guilty.
I want to love you both and enjoy the time that I spend with each of you. Please support me and the time that I spend with each of you. If you act jealous or upset, I feel like I need to take sides and love one parent more than the other.
Please communicate directly with each other so that I don’t have to send messages back and forth between you.
When talking about my other parent, please say only nice things, or don’t say anything at all. When you say mean, unkind things about my other parent, I feel like you are expecting me to take your side.
Please remember that I want both of you to be a part of my life. I count on my mom and dad to raise me, to teach me what is important, and to help me when I have problems.
How to tell kids about divorce
When it comes to telling your kids about your divorce, many parents freeze up. Make the conversation a little easier on both yourself and your children by preparing what you’re going to say before you sit down to talk. If you can anticipate tough questions, deal with your own anxieties ahead of time, and plan carefully what you’ll be telling them, you will be better equipped to help your children handle the news.
What to say and how to say it?
Difficult as it may be to do, try to strike an empathetic tone and address the most important points right up front. Give your children the benefit of an honest—but kid-friendly—explanation.
Tell the truth. Your kids are entitled to know why you are getting a divorce, but long-winded reasons may only confuse them. Pick something simple and honest, like “We can’t get along anymore.” You may need to remind your children that while sometimes parents and kids don’t always get along, parents and kids don’t stop loving each other or get divorced from each other.
Say “I love you.” However simple it may sound, letting your children know that your love for them hasn’t changed is a powerful message. Tell them you’ll still be caring for them in every way, from fixing their breakfast to helping with homework.
Address changes. Preempt your kids’ questions about changes in their lives by acknowledging that some things will be different now, and other things won’t. Let them know that together you can deal with each detail as you go.
Some common concerns parents are faced with;
How can we make life better for our children after the divorce than it was before?
Ans–Researchers have consistently found that high levels of parental conflict during and after a divorce are associated with poorer adjustment in children. Divorce frequently contributes to depression, anxiety or substance abuse in one or both parents and may bring about difficulties in balancing work and child rearing. These problems can impair a parent’s ability to offer children stability and love when they are most in need. Divorce
How can we best support our children—and minimize the physical, emotional and spiritual damage inflicted upon them as a result of our divorce?
Ans– The three biggest factors that impact children’s well-being during and after their parents’ separation or divorce are potentially within parents’ control: the degree and duration of hostile conflict, the quality of parenting provided over time, and the quality of the parent-child relationship. Children need support and guidance during this period.
Am I burdening my children with responsibilities only an adult should have to bear?
Ans– Parentification is an uncertain happening of events which forces a child to fulfill the role of an adult in childhood. It can occur in cases of divorce, constant fighting between parents, in households with single parents, and or separation. The child witnesses a depressed parent, or the sour emotions of the parents and takes on the task of rescuing either one or both the parents by sacrificing his or her own needs to give attention to the parent in need, to provide comfort, and sometimes even guidance to the needy parent. Children are not aware that their power is limited and that their parents are responsible for their emotional and developmental needs. The child either consciously or sub-consciously steps in to fill the void of the missing parent.
What can we do to boost their sense of security, self-esteem and wellbeing during the transition ahead?
The biggest concern for most parents when they consider divorce is whether their children will be hurt by the breakup. Parents feel angry, guilty and distressed at the breakup of their marriage, the family and inadequate to explain, comfort, reassure and help their child through the divorce process. Parental cooperation is a must as they must support and work together as parents.
What can a parent do if the other parent is not co-operating?
Try to resolve the conflict informally. If this does not work you may seek mediation, counselling or legal advice. You can also ask the court to ensure that the agreement is carried out.
What is co-parenting?
Co-parenting is when two people, who are parents do not live together but share the responsibly of raising a child or children together. This usually happens when there is a marriage break down, a separation or divorce. Co-operative co-parenting however occurs when both parents work in partnership to bring up the child with equal responsibilities. The child will also have the right to maintain an equal relationship with both parents. Both parents will come together to ensure the child or children have a stable environment, good education and an all-round stable routine. They will usually maintain the same standards in discipline as well as rewards and treats. Co-parenting allows the child or children to have a secure upbringing without having a conflict of interest.
What are some benefits of co-parenting?
Co-operative co-parenting is good for you and your children. Understand the benefits of co-parenting, develop a parenting plan that will work for everyone and follow through on the agreements. Through your partnership, your children should recognize that they are more important than the conflict that ended your marriage—and understand that your love for them will prevail despite changing circumstances. Kids whose divorced parents have a cooperative relationship:
Feel secure. When confident of the love of both parents, kids adjust more quickly and easily to divorce and new living situations, and have better self-esteem.
Benefit from consistency. Co-parenting fosters similar rules, discipline, and rewards between households, so children know what to expect, and what’s expected of them.
Better understand problem solving. Children who see their parents continuing to work together are more likely to learn how to effectively and peacefully solve problems themselves.
Have a healthy example to follow. By cooperating with the other parent, you are establishing a life pattern your children can carry into the future to build and maintain stronger relationships.
Are mentally and emotionally healthier. Children exposed to conflict between co-parents are more likely to develop issues such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD.
What are the goals of co-parenting
It’s healthy for children to be exposed to different perspectives and to learn to be flexible, but they also need to know they’re living under the same basic set of expectations at each home. Aiming for consistency between your home and your ex’s avoids confusion for your children.
Rules don’t have to be exactly the same between two households, but if you and your ex-spouse establish generally consistent guidelines, your kids won’t have to bounce back and forth between two radically different disciplinary environments. Important lifestyle rules like homework issues, curfews, and off-limit activities should be followed in both households.
Try to follow similar systems of consequences for broken rules, even if the infraction didn’t happen under your roof. So, if your kids have lost TV privileges while at your ex’s house, follow through with the restriction. The same can be done for rewarding good behavior.
Where you can, aim for some consistency in your children’s schedules. Making meals, homework, and bedtimes similar can go a long way toward your child’s adjustment to having two homes.
What does a parenting plan consist of?
Physical custody and access/ living arrangements
Financial responsibilities- food, clothing, shelter; education (books and school supplies); health care, child care (nursery, day care), transportation and phone; hobbies and extracurricular activities; long term savings for high school, universities. Are bills shared equally?
Decision-making- about choosing a school, drop off and pick-up to and from school, religion, discipline; agreeing on acceptable forms of entertainment (joint or individual decisions).
How to communicate to each other- by texting or e-mail, face to face or talking over the phone.