how to be a better parent after separation

Many parents now share legal and physical custody of their minor children. Parents disagree on child rearing issues and this happens even more when parents separate. The challenge is how to resolve those disagreements when you are separated and therefore not necessarily communicating daily. It is not in the child’s best interests for each parent to do what he or she thinks is best with no consideration for the other parent’s opinion. If, however, both parents keep the focus on the children involved, the parents can effectively co-parent and have happier, healthier children as well as a more amicable and less demanding relationship with the other parent.

Tips for effective co-parenting include:

Separate your feelings from your behavior

It is acceptable to be hurt or angry over the actions that led to the separation from other parent. However, you should not let your emotions govern your behavior with your child or the other parent. Vent your feelings to a friend, therapist, relative or coworker but NEVER discuss your negative feelings about the other parent with your child or discuss those feeling with someone else in your child’s presence. Never vent your feelings or discuss the custody situation on ANY Social Media website.  This risks that your children who may have access to your social media may read your posts and comments from others   or through friends who may have tell them about the posts.

Find a way to work through your Anger without involving the child

Take deep breaths, meditate, do yoga or some other form of physical exercise that will essentially force you to calm down and relax. Once you are relaxed, you will be in a position to think more clearly and act more rationally and to try to stay positive around the child.

Stay focused on the child, not on your needs

As long as you keep your focus on the best for the child, your thoughts and your actions will stay positive and then you probably will not say or do something wrong in this regard. When you take the focus off your child and concentrate on your feelings or how you were “wronged,” problems will ensue. It may help to look at a cherished photograph of your child or count to ten to calm down before taking action or saying anything you will later regret.

Never, NEVER use the child as a messenger to the other parent

All parenting decisions, regardless of how small they may seem, should be communicated between the parents and not through the child. The children should not to be involved parental discussions about parental decision-making.

Never, NEVER put the children in the middle of an argument with the other parent

Do not discuss your concerns about the other parent with the children and do not disparage the other parent in front of the children. You will not only make the child feel as though they must choose between both parents but also may make the child feel responsible for the situation.   The child should have a relationship with both parents that is loving and free from the influence of the other parent.

Aim for consistency

While it is healthy for a child to be exposed to different experiences and perspectives and life choices, he/she also need to know that each parent has the same set of expectations of the child. When co-parenting, strive to:

  • Establish the same rules in both houses.
  • Use the same forms of discipline for the same types of behavior problems.
  • Try to follow the same schedule, as much as possible, in both homes

Always be positive when exchanging custody

If you are apprehensive about the delivery of physical custody to the other parent, the children will sense this and be apprehensive.  If the child needs space to adjust to new situations, do something nearby allowing them to adjust to the transition while knowing you will always be there when needed.  Establish regular routines for custody exchanges as often as possible.

Communication is key!

Whether communicating via telephone, e-mail, text message or in-person, (NEVER THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA), the key is to establishing  a “conflict-free” relationship is to have regular discussions pertaining to the child. The following are helpful tips in this regard:

  • Set up an appropriate time and place for the discussions to occur and handle as if you were dealing with a business matter.   Approach the discussion as though you are in partnership with the other parent and the business is your child’s well-being. Be cordial, respectful and neutral, just as you would if you were speaking to a business colleague.
  • Make requests not demands. Demand only cause negativity  from the other parent.
  • Listen effectively and do not interrupt the other parent when they are expressing their views.  Listen to understand and then respond.
  • Show restraint. Do not ever overreact.
  • Communicate often & consistently. Consider setting aside the same time each week to discuss any issues that may arise pertaining to the child. This will also demonstrate to the children that both parents have established a united front and it will be more difficult for the children to “play one parent against one another”.
  • Keep the conversation focused on best interests and needs of the child. Do not discuss your needs with the other parent or prior relationship issues. The conversation should only pertain to the child and what the child needs at that particular point in time.
  • Always consider and respect the other parent’s opinion and reasons for that opinion. Do not simply dismiss the other parent’s opinion as wrong
  • Apologize when appropriate. If you say or do something wrong, acknowledge the wrongdoing and apologize for it immediately. You will be a better person for it and your child will learn appropriate polite behavior.
  • Be open and honest with the other parent.  Respect what the other parent has to say about all issues involving the child.

Disagreements are bound to happen

When disagreements happen, keep the following in mind:

  • Don’t worry about the small issues. In other words, pick your battles.
  • Compromise when necessary. Compromise may not be your first choice but it may be what is best choice for the child.
  • Keep talking often. The longer  and more regularly you talk about the issue, the more likely you will be able to come to an acceptable compromise. Never talk in front of the children.
  • Always be respectful, even when you think the other parent is wrong. Respect goes a long way.

Count on Mooney

If you have any Family Law concerns, please contact me anytime at 717-200-HELP.  We are experienced Family Law attorneys who are available to represent you and your interests when needed.

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