How Texas Men Can Make Co-Parenting Work.

Many children will be “caught in the middle” when their parents get divorced.

Research shows that children from divorcing families may suffer painful consequences. At the same time the research shows that children surrounded by love, support and given the skills and information needed to cope with the situation suffer fewer painful consequences. Surrounding children with love, support and the skills needed to cope happen when parents learn to co-parent. I want Texas dads to make co-parenting work for their children!

How can this be done?

Co-parenting is a phrase used to describe divorced or separated parents who are sensitive to their child’s distress and who learn techniques that avoid putting children in the middle. Lets face it, many couples find it extremely difficult to divorce amicably. Typically there’s potential for a great deal of anger, resentment, disappointment and pain. Parents may use children as weapons by controlling the other parent’s access to the children or financial support. They may use children as “spies” or trash each other in front of them. All of this puts children at risk and may add to the burden which children of divorce already face.

What makes co-parenting difficult?

Some of the typical sources of conflict are:

  • Money
  • Religious/values education
  • Holidays
  • Discipline
  • Medical issues
  • Education and/or career plans
  • Recreation (sports, hobbies)
  • Parenting styles

Dr. Roland Emery, Ph.D wrote an excellent article in Psychology Today about how it stinks for children to be caught in the middle of parents who are constantly fighting with each other.  Take a few minutes to read his article.  His article inspired me to commit myself to helping my clients learn to effectively co-parent their children.  Based on my experience helping people to make co-parenting work, here an article I wrote on the benefits of making co-parenting work.

Why is effective co-parenting important?

When a family reorganizes because of separation or divorce, the parenting responsibilities must also be reorganized. Keep telling yourself why it’s important to develop a new partnership as parents for your child/ren. It is important because:

  • Children benefit from having a positive and supportive relationship with both parents.
  • Cooperative parenting reduces the levels of stress that echo throughout the entire family.
  • The absence of communication between parents or the presence of conflicting communication hurts a child they are caught in the middle.

One of the most difficult issues for parents who share responsibilities for children is visitation. The following guidelines are meant to give you several ideas to work on to make visitation work for everyone. While each family must find what works best for them, they must make sure to avoid putting too much pressure on the children.

General Guidelines

The guidelines that follow are examples of constructive parenting goals that promote the well-being of the children by helping them grow into healthy, happy, whole people.

  • Both parents should encourage visitation to help their children grow and develop in a positive way.
  • Children need to know that it is OK to love both parents.
  • Parents should act respectfully toward each other.
  • Each parent should show respect for the other’s views concerning how to raise the children by trying, where possible, to be consistent. For example, if one parent is strongly opposed to having toy guns for small children, the other should take this view into account when buying toys.
  • Each parent is entitled to know the whereabouts of the children during visitations, as well as whom the children are with (such as a babysitter or friend), if they are not with the other parent.
  • The parents should discuss and try to agree on the religious education of the children, as well as on who is responsible for seeing that the children attend religious instruction.
  • It is vitally important that each parent let the other know his/her current address and home and work phone numbers.
  • Both parents should realize that visitation schedules may change as children grow older and have different needs.

I always ask my clients to read a blog post written by Jocelyn Block, M.A. and Melinda Smith, M.A. on co-parenting tips for divorced parents.  Their article is full of easy ideas on how to make co-parenting work for everyone. If you are reading this post, please go read their article.  I am sure you will find it an excellent source of ideas on how to make co-parenting more effective. Also, check out a post I did on learning how to make co-parenting work.

Visitation DO’s

1. Be as flexible as possible about visitation schedules.

Give the other parent as much advance notice of changes in visitation as possible.

Remember to give the other parent your vacation schedules in advance and, where possible, provide your itinerary.

Remember that your children may have plans that could affect your visitation schedule.

Respect their need for flexibility.

2. Make visitations a normal part of life.

Find activities that give you and your children opportunities to build your relationship, but also allow some time just to “hang out” together.

Provide a balance of fun and responsibility for your children.

Encourage some visitations that include grandparents and extended family.

Make sure that your children have places that belong to them — even if it’s just a section of a room in your home so it can be their home too.

Help your children get to know others in the neighborhood, so that they can have friends in both homes.

Keep to a routine and a schedule in preparing your children for visitations.

Have a checklist of items that children need to bring/take (clothing, toys, etc.). If the children are old enough, they can help pack or can pack independently.

Sometimes, if it’s appropriate, allow your children to bring friends along.

On occasion, separate your children, so that you can have individual time with each one.

3. Show respect for your former partner and concern for your children.

Show up on time.

Inform them in advance if a new person/partner (for example, new babysitter, new partner) will be part of the visit.

Share changes in address, telephone numbers, jobs, etc.

It is not always easy but learn how how Texas Men can make co-parenting work.  Many children are Caught In The Middle” of parental divorce. Ideas on helping children cope.  Dads! Make It Work!