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The Joy of An Ex - Co-Parenting After Divorce: Making It Work

13th April 2011
By Jackie Rahmler in Divorce
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Copyright (c) 2011 Jackie Ramler

Some assumptions are made in this chapter:

- The parents have developed a parenting plan for their child or children.

- Each parent has adequate skills in parenting and has individual past experience caring for the child (especially important with very young children).

- There is no history of domestic violence, physical or emotional abuse in the family.

- The parents are not in a high conflict relationship.

Co-parenting says it all! It's not about "custody of" and "access to" your child. It's about being parents. It's about the children's rights and your responsibilities. It's about both parents having a significant role in and contribution towards their child's well-being. It's about how any child will spend time with each parent and continue to have a close relationship with both.

Children need and have a right to a relationship with both parents. Ultimately, they have little control over what happens to them during and after a divorce. They cannot determine for themselves the extent of the contact that they will have with either parent or with extended family and friends. Loving, caring relationships are necessary for the development of healthy, resilient children.

Children also have a right to enjoy life with as little conflict as possible. With this in mind, it is the parents' responsibility to shape and foster the relationships of the post-divorce family and to do so with civility and decency. The primary goal is to meet the needs of your child. To do this while living in two households requires a great deal of patience and cooperation.

Although the two of you are no longer involved in an intimate relationship, you will continue to be in each other's life for a very long time - ever connected as parents by and through your children. It is critical that you fully understand and accept this fact. You will both want to attend and enjoy extra-curricular events in which your child is involved, such as concerts, games or school events. There will also be important milestones that neither of you will want to miss - graduations, marriages and maybe even grandchildren.

The ways in which parents handle the adult issues of divorce for themselves and as a couple will greatly influence how the children cope with their changed situation. You have to begin to see your ex-partner not in terms of relationship with you, but in terms of being your child's mother or father. You will need to set aside your differences in order to work together.

The focus of your relationship with your ex-partner must be on your child. It should not revolve around rehashing your previous marital problems. You will each have to work to let go of the past and focus on the present and future. There is no value to the "blame and shame" game - not for either parent and definitely not for the children. It is critical that each parent work through his or her own feelings in the aftermath of the divorce. A counselor or divorce coach may be a necessary resource and support for this task.

After divorce, parents face a huge array of tasks in putting their own lives, as well as their children's, in new and better order. In a co-parenting arrangement, neither parent is wholly responsible for his or her child's upbringing. This can be particularly helpful, and at times particularly cumbersome, where there are two working parents.

The extent to which you and your ex-partner are successful at co-parenting depends on many factors - among them your individual communication skills and abilities, and how each of you deals with conflict. It may be useful to figure out your personal style and what works best for you.


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