Coparenting after Divorce or Separation
by Jeri Sansom Green, MS, LPC
Parenting is very difficult, no matter what role you have or where your family stands in terms of relationships, ages of children, etc… And let’s face it, some of us parent better and are happier and more present for children when not faced with the stress, anxiety and often depression that accompanies an unhealthy relationship. So, first of all, give yourself credit for making a very difficult decision to bring about healthier, happier moms, dads, and children. Here are a few tips to help both parents and children feel more respected when parenting separately, yet together (co-parenting):
- Remember that regardless of differences and the decision to part ways, you will both forever be parents of your children. Their happiness, self esteem, and successes will be much greater when you minimize the differences between you.
- Try to say positive things about the other parent when talking to your children. This must be sincere because children will definitely be aware of a lack of genuineness. Be specific. Ex: “Yes, that was very clever for Daddy to make up that game to play with you”. “It sounds like you had a lot of fun joking with Mommy about that. She is funny and I’m glad you laugh a lot with her.”
- Try to refer to your former partner as your child’s “mom” or “dad” in the presence of your children, instead of using terms such as ex, exhusband, exwife. This helps the child understand that your roles in their lives are for parenting, and not about your relationship or former relationship.
- Try to refrain from competing with your former partner as it relates to your children – buying gifts, participating in activities, etc. Do the things you would like to do for your children without worrying that the other parent may be doing more or having more fun.
- Acknowledge the other parent often (don’t pretend the other parent doesn’t exist). Stay positive when talking about the other parent and encourage the children when they want to do something nice for the other parent. Ask them if they would like to pick out a holiday gift/mother’s day/father’s day card or allow time for them to make one for them.
Always remember that your personal happiness directly affects your children and the better you get along, the happier all of you will be. Happy parents equal happy children, so remember this while working toward positive communication with each other. Good luck in your coparenting!
Jeri Green, MS, LPC