Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C.
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Co-Parenting Basics for Divorced Parents

Your children will benefit from a healthy relationship with both their father and their mother after divorce, so to co-parent effectively, remember the three C's: Cooperation, Communication, and Consistency

Cooperation

Remember, it's all about what's best for your children. As adults, you have to put their needs before your own hurts and grudges, however real they may be. As long as one of them is not abusive, your children need to have a healthy relationship with both parents.

You will need to make some important decisions about who will be the parent liaison to doctors, educators, coaches, etc. Will communications from these institutions go to one parent or both? Who will pay for insurance, education, and extra-curricular activities? Will both parents attend school and sport events, parent/teacher meetings, and doctor appointments?

Determine a schedule of custody that takes into consideration school, holidays, and special events. How will the child be transported between homes? What degree of flexibility is there when "life" happens and schedules or plans need to be changed?

Communication

Communication and cooperation work hand in hand. You must have a well-structured communication plan in order to cooperate in the raising of your children. Depending on your relationship, you may have to keep it short and business-like, but you should still be civil. If possible, over time, work towards a friendly relationship, since you're two people who love the same children and want what's best for them.

Always share important information, milestones, and pictures with your ex. Some divorced parents find it useful to have a shared online calendar with their children's schedules, notes from school, and other data loaded, so both parents have access.

If you have concerns about any of your children, it's very important to communicate this, so you're both aware and can both work on it. This will not only help with the issue, but will show the children that their parents are united with regard to their well-being, which will have a positive emotional effect on them.

Consistency

This unity should be displayed through consistency in other areas as well. Both homes should have consistent rules of conduct and behavior. It's likely you will disagree on particulars, but children need stability for their best development.

You may find it easier to agree on certain essentials if each parent is permitted leeway in the specifics. While one parent might say 9:00pm bedtime on weekdays and the other says 10:00pm, the big picture message being communicated is, "You need a good night's sleep to do well in school." Chores may differ from house to house, but both parents should teach their children responsibility by giving them chores. Rules about manners, foul language, and other issues of courtesy should be obeyed in both homes.

One last word on attitude

Never complain about the other parent, and as much as possible, help the children respect your co-parent. If he or she has personality flaws, it's best to let the children discover them on their own - within the realm of safety - to avoid unreasonable fantasies or inaccurate beliefs about the other parent that will make your role more difficult.

Make it clear to your children that the divorce is not their fault. They may need to hear this multiple times, but make sure they feel loved and secure, and they will grow into strong and healthy adults.


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