Separation and co-parenting requires each parent to expand their existing parenting skill set. Prior to separation, parents have the option of deferring to each other’s skills and strengths. However, separation requires that each parent be comfortable managing all tasks of day-to-day parenting.
Each parent must consider which tasks their partner oversaw prior to separation and take time to develop those skills themselves. This is not to usurp the other parent, but to ensure that each parent feels confident and competent in their separated, co-parenting roles. This process may require hard work on each parent’s part, but it is necessary and rewarding. Those parenting strengths that you observed in the other parent—whether it be meal preparation, patience, or physical affection—can become part of your parenting DNA.
Building Co-Parenting Trust
Separation is emotionally charged, and more often than not, co-parenting during separation triggers difficult emotions for both parents. Parents may feel defensive or suspicious of each other as a result of past and current tensions. Parents may also be fearful of losing their relationship with their children and feel a sense of jealousy or competition about their child’s relationship with the other parent.
Being aware of your emotional state is important for effective co-parenting and building trust with the other parent. If negative emotions are left unchecked, they will be unconsciously communicated to the children as negative messages about the other parent. These negative messages can be damaging to the parent-child relationship by souring transitions from one home to another. Research suggests that children of divorce often feel that they don’t belong in either home over time. Because of the damaged caused, it is important to recognize these negative messages as abusive behavior directed at both the other parent and the children.
To have the best opportunity for parenting success, children must know that they are wanted in each parent’s home. This requires the endorsement of each parent by the other parent. To avoid having children feel they are out of place in either home, co-parents must strive to build inclusive family relationships. Inclusiveness required balanced, trusting parent-child relationships, free from smothering or needy or negative demands from either parent. Renewal is built from recognizing both parents’ love for their child and the complementary strengths of each parent.
Building trust and stability in the co-parenting arrangement can be made easier by maintaining schedules and minimizing potential irritants when children are transitioning from one home to another. This may include arranging shared electronic calendars of the children’s events and establishing strategies to avoid concerns about clothing and toys left at the other parents’ home. Parents should arrange for any difficult communications to occur separately from the pick-up/drop-off routines to avoid having those communications interfere with meaningful parent-child reconnection.
Regular, clear communication and planning is also important for creating long-term stability for your children during the separation process. A scheduled bi-weekly conversation during the early months is advisable, though it may eventually become a monthly routine. Following a parental conversation, the parents could decide to seek out their child’s input about any modifications to plans and routines. Changes should be only about scheduling needs, not about changing the balance of time the child has with each parent. The latter could seriously breech parenting trust.
It is important to also maintain stability in the children’s responsibilities and expectations. There is a risk that the responsibilities assigned pre-separation are abandoned in one or both homes during separation. That is not unusual, but unfortunate. The fear of alienating your child through enforcement of such things as chores is common for many families. While it is common to feel like you are in competition with the other parent and in jeopardy of losing your relationship to your child, acting on these fears leads to ineffective parenting. Parents need recognize these fears within themselves and set them aside in order to come together through co-parenting conversations about responsibilities and discipline.
- 8 Things Kids Of Divorce Want Parents To Know | HuffPost Canada Divorce (huffingtonpost.ca)
- Helping children cope with separation and divorce | Caring for kids (cps.ca)
- Co-Parenting.com – Child Custody Parenting Plans (coparenting.com)
- Co-Parenting and Joint Custody Tips for Divorced Parents – HelpGuide.org
- Child Up Parenting Plan
- Fathers Reading Every Day training: The Fatherhood Institute
- Strengthening Father-Daughter Relationships (verywellfamily.com)
- Mother Thanks Court for Shared Parenting – NPO Blog Archive
- Survey: Moms’ Income, Well-being Enhanced by Equal Parenting – NPO Blog Archive (sharedparenting.com)