With divorce becoming increasingly commonplace, parenting agreements for the custody of children are as a result being more commonly put in place.
In situations when children have access to both parents following a divorce, it is proven that there are many benefits to them. Parents that have a joint custody agreement tend to experience much lower rates of conflict than those where one parent has sole custody. The conflict that is sometimes apparent can create grief and pain for the children of the family, on top of the pain they are already experiencing from the breakdown of their parent’s relationship.
It is important that parenting plans keep any arguments or disagreements to a minimum for the sake of the children involved, to help them remain resilient. For parents that find co-parenting and avoiding arguments difficult, parallel parenting may be the best option for their situation instead.
Co-parenting can be considered an entirely positive thing, so the negatives are never usually highlighted by the experts. One expert said, children of divorce benefit from strong relationships with their parents and so should ideally be shielded from any conflict if this is possible. However, he recognises that a lot of parents often put their children in a position of having to choose between parents, a parent would take advantage of the child’s negative opinion of the other parent and use this to their advantage, creating further tension.
Co-parenting is only ever appropriate when both parents maintain a healthy separated or divorced relationship for the benefit of their children. Often due to the nature of the divorce, parents cannot help but feel sour and resentful of one another and this can often affect discussions when agreeing custody of a child. They can often not decide who is in the right and who is entitled to what so spend time targeting their anger at each other. They will often look to third parties to relay this anger and frustration such as school staff and GP’s, anyone they feel that will listen.
What is Co-parenting?
This is a situation in which two parents are no longer married or in a relationship with each other but maintain joint responsibility and custody of the children of the family. This is so they can both be equally present in the child or children’s upbringing to make sure that it is stable for them. This opens a fantastic opportunity for a child to have a healthy and consistent relationship with both parents to create a positive bond. This can then help produce and encourage good psychological and physical behaviour for the child moving forward in their life.
When you are co-parenting with a spouse that you have separated from, it is important to maintain effective communication but also to be clear with the child or children of the family that their parents are simply just friends now. This is so there is no hope for the child of future reconciliation. Ways in which you can do this is making sure that any communication between the two of you is purely practical, discussions about who is having the children and when, which parent will be paying for the child to do an activity and simply making good decisions for the child. Anything that may be too personal may give the child a sense of false hope. Effective communication between spouses is especially important when the child is for example reaching an age of adolescence and merging into young adulthood. This can be a tough time for them, so sitting down and reaching an agreement with your spouse about what you can both do to aid this time is a great idea. Effective communication with each other, and your child, is the key to success.
A lot of children find it hard to realise that they do not have to pick between either parent when they are not getting on. They may feel as though they must display loyalty to one of their parents. A parent might find themselves complaining to their child about their spouse. Remember, this will make them feel a sense of loyalty to you. Children are impressionable so this kind of behaviour may make them feel awkward when they go to visit their other parent. Children often do not want to take sides between parents, so it is important not to make them feel as if they must. If one parent gets a new partner, the child may feel as though they must keep this a secret. You should let them know they can be open, and it is good for you to be open to. You and your spouse are now at a point when you can move on with your lives.
It is understandable that not all spouses with children together remain civil following a divorce or separation due to many reasons. For reasons such as unreasonable behaviour in a marriage or simply bitterness, it is more common that parents just do not get along.
This method of parenting slightly differs from the previous. While skipping the benefits of cohabiting which can be constructive, parallel parenting keep communication with the ex, down to a minimum. This means avoiding each other at pickups and drop offs and crossing to the other side of the road when you see each other. We understand it is not always simple. However, there are steps you can take to make these things simple. Such as keeping all communication ‘professional’ and not personal. This will avoid any need for arguing and means that everything remains “matter of fact” You should also avoid using your child as a “messenger.” Do not ask them to relay messages back and forth because you cannot face your spouse. This is not only unfair on the child but will make parenting much more difficult for the both of you too because things can often get lost in translation. Sending a formal message such as a letter or an email can be much more productive and this way you do not have to physically face your spouse. Shared calendars are also a terrific way of maintaining consistency. Consistent custody can sometimes be an issue. Some parents like to select when they see their children, so sometimes a written agreement is good so there is nobody changing their mind when they feel like it.
Parallel parenting gives parents the opportunity to see their children equally without having to engage with each other too much. It allows feuds to be put to rest and keeps the children out of it as much as possible with no grief or pain caused.
These methods can not only be beneficial for you but can be for your children also. It means that they can feel secure in their relationship with both parents without feeling caught in the middle. It also helps them adjust a lot easier as they get older and boosts their self-esteem. It means they can grow up in a much healthier environment and can also mirror your mature and adult behaviour towards one another. Remember, as much as this will benefit you in the short term, it will also really help them in the long term, so positivity and consistency are the key!