Making coparenting decisions during a divorce can be clouded by anger, sadness, and sheer exhaustion. Consider focusing on the following three themes from the research on divorce, to assist you when making coparenting decisions. A simple acronym to use is FBI, as it is easy to remember.
Coparenting decisions should move your family forward. For example, physically separate as soon as is feasible. This helps children adjust to their “new normal”, minimizes their fears about the future, and lets them know they will be taken care of even if you are not together. Maintaining forward motion can be a difficult concept. Consider the following example. Coparents decided to continue their Taco Tuesday tradition after their separation – having tacos together every Tuesday in what had been the family home. Their 8-year-old daughter loved it. When asked how she would feel if Dad’s new girlfriend joined them, she was strongly opposed. Taco Tuesday had kept the hope alive that her parents would reunite. It also insured that she would not be willing to form a relationship with a parent’s new significant other. A choice that may seem to be a good idea on the surface, may not be when you consider the current and future consequences from a child’s perspective.
Coparenting boundaries are very different from spousal boundaries. The parenting agreement you made when you were together no longer applies. Your spouse no longer needs to clear daily parenting decisions with you. And you no longer need to explain yours, unless you wish to. Your coparenting relationship can be viewed as a business relationship. Your job is to work together to make major decisions to insure your children have the resources necessary to become successful adults. When communicating with your coparent, remember to give them the same respect and privacy you would give your coworkers. Setting new and healthy boundaries can be the hardest part of moving from a spousal to a coparenting relationship.
When coparents engage in conflict, children can feel stuck in the middle of situations they do not fully understand. Children may feel they cannot reach out to parents for support fearing it will ignite more conflict. Children may find it easier or safer to appease parents – often telling them different things – than to get their needs met. This can lead to chronic anxiety, as well as other behavioral and emotional issues throughout their life. So, it is important to choose your battles wisely. A fight “to the death” on principle, is more likely to damage your children than help them in the long run. Let compromise be your mantra. Taking the “high road” will always serve you well.
So, remember your FBI’s. A recent study compared children from divorced families with good coparenting to children whose parents remained together. There were no significant differences between them. Your marriage may not have succeeded, but you can be an amazing coparent.
About the author:
Carol Love is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has been a Domestic Relations Counselor at the St. Louis County Family Court, and the Clinical Director of Kids In The Middle, a local agency dedicated to assisting families deal with separation and divorce. Carol is currently in private practice and works with coparents and children to minimize the negative impact of separation and divorce on families, and help them thrive in the future.
If you want to learn more about your divorce options and coparenting decisions, then give her a call. She can be reached at 314.303.9792, or email her at ca********@sb*******.net