It is important to learn how to effectively co-parent because it will prevent children from being “Caught In The Middle” when parents get divorced. Research suggests both difficult and promising news: Children from families of divorce may suffer painful consequences, and yet children who are surrounded by support and given the skills and information needed to cope with the situation suffer fewer painful consequences.

Once parents are committed to effectively co-parenting, they will realize that it is important to learn how to effectively co-parent.  Both parents will soon realize that visitation schedules may change as children grow older and have different needs.

Visitation DON’TS

Some parents who do not learn how to effectively co-parent will use visitation to achieve destructive goals. Destructive goals are those that are based on one parent seeking to hurt the other parent, to disrupt his or her life, to inflict revenge for past or present hurts. To achieve that goal, the parent may use destructive strategies. This can create an even more hostile relationship with the former spouse and can seriously damage the relationship between the children and one or both parents. Destructive strategies can be deeply hurtful to the children caught in the middle and must be avoided. Once parents learn how to effectively co-parent, they will avoid destructive approaches to visitation by doing the following:

1. Communicate with their former partner.

Don’t use your children as messengers on divorce-related issues, such as child support. Those issues should be discussed by the adults only.
Don’t make your children responsible for making, canceling, or changing visitation plans. Those are adult responsibilities.
Don’t use your children to spy on your former spouse.
Don’t use drop-off and pick-up times as opportunities to fight with the other parent. Deal with important issues in a separate meeting or telephone call, when your children cannot overhear.

2. Not trying to disrupt their children’s relationship with the other parent.

Don’t try to make your children feel guilty about spending time with the other parent.
Don’t use the visitations as rewards for good behavior by your children, and don’t withhold visitations as punishment for poor behavior.
Don’t tell your children that you’ll feel lonely and sad if they visit the other parent.
Don’t withhold visitations to punish your former spouse for past wrongs or to get even for missed child-support payments. Withholding visitations will punish your children, who are not guilty.
Don’t withhold visitations because you feel your former spouse doesn’t “deserve” to see the children. Except in the case where a parent is a genuine threat to the children, adults and children need and deserve to see each other.
Don’t use false accusations of abuse to justify withholding visitations.
Try not to let activities (sports, hobbies, etc.) interfere with time your children need to spend with the other parent. Perhaps the other parent can sometimes transport the children to those activities and/or join with them.
Don’t pressure your children about clothes, toys, and other items left at the other parent’s home. The children need to feel they belong in both homes.
Don’t falsely claim that your children are sick to justify withholding visitations.
Don’t withhold phone calls to your children from the other parent.
Don’t refer to the other parent’s new romantic partner in a derogatory way.

3. Not allowing their anger against their former partner to affect their relationship with their children.

Don’t hurt your children by failing to show up for visitations or by being late.

4. Not trying to spoil their children or try to “buy” their loyalty or love.

Don’t let your children blackmail you by refusing to visit unless you buy them something.
Don’t try to bribe your children.
Don’t feel you have to be a “buddy” to your children in order for visitations to be successful. Your children need you to be a parent.
Don’t feel you have to fill every minute of a visit with activities. Allow some “down time” for routine activities together, such as cooking or doing laundry, or time just to be quiet together.

One of the most difficult issues for parents who share responsibilities for children is the issue of visitation. These guidelines are meant to give you several ideas so you can learn how to effectively co-parent.  Each family must find what works best for them while avoiding too much pressure being put on the children.  It is important to learn how to effectively co-parent because it will prevent children from being “Caught In The Middle” when parents get divorced.