we looked at Deborah Serani’s “Do’s” of co-parenting from her article The Do’s and Don’ts of Co-Parenting Well.
Remember that a divorce or break-up doesn’t end the parenting relationship with the other parent of your children. You will be involved with that person for the rest of your children’s lives. Think of all the ballet recitals and softball games, graduations, weddings, and grandbabies that are in your child’s future. You and the other parent (and probably both of your future spouses and other children) will be in each other’s lives for a very long time. Here are Ms. Serani’s “Don”s” of co-parenting:
- Don’t burden your child. Emotionally charged issues about your Ex should never be part of your parenting. Never sabotage your child’s relationship with your Ex by trash talking. Never use your child to gain information about things going on or to sway your Ex about an issue. The main thing here is this: Don’t expose children to conflict. Research shows that putting children in the middle of your adult issues promotes feelings of helplessness and insecurity, causing children to question their own strengths and abilities.
- Don’t jump to conclusions or condemn your Ex. When you hear things from your children that make you bristle, take a breath and remain quiet. Remember that any negative comments your children make are often best taken with a grain of salt. It’s always good to remain neutral when things like this happen. Research shows that your child can learn to resent and distrust you if you cheer them on.
- Don’t be an unbalanced parent. Resist being the fun guy or the cool mom when your children are with you. Doing so backfires once they return to your Ex – and sets into motion a cycle of resentment, hostility and a reluctance to follow rules for all involved. Remember that children develop best with a united front. Co-parenting with a healthy dose of fun, structure and predictability is a win-win for everyone.
- Don’t give into guilt. Divorce is a painful experience, and one that conjures up many emotions. Not being in your child’s life on a full time basis can cause you to convert your guilt into overindulgence. Understand the psychology of parental guilt – and how to recognize that granting wishes without limits is never good. Research shows that children can become self-centered, lack empathy and believe in the need to get unrealistic entitlement from others. Confusion understanding the dynamics of need versus want, as well as taming impulsivity becomes troublesome for children to negotiate too.
- Don’t punish your Ex by allowing your child to wiggle out of responsibility. Loosening the reigns because you just want to be a thorn in your Ex’s side is a big no-no. "I know Mommy likes you to get your homework done first, but you can do that later." "Don’t tell Daddy I gave you the extra money to buy the video game you’ve been working towards." If you need to get your negative emotions out, find another outlet. Voodoo dolls, skeet shooting and kick boxing can yield the same results, but with less of a parenting mess. Remember, work before play is a golden rule – and one that will help your child throughout their lifetime. Making sure to be consistent helps your child transition back and forth from your Ex – and back and forth to you too.
- Don’t accuse. Discuss. Never remain quiet if something about your Ex’s co-parenting is troubling you. If you don’t have a good personal relationship with your Ex, create a working business arrangement. Communication about co-parenting is extremely vital for your child’s healthy development. No finger pointing or you-keep-doing-this kind of talk. The best approach when communicating is to make your child the focal point: "I see the kids doing this-and-that after they return home from their visit. Any ideas of what we can do?" Notice there’s not one "you" word in there. No accusatory tone or finger-pointing either.