By Rosalind Sedacca
If you're a parent, divorce doesn't end your relationship with your former spouse. It only changes some of the form. It is still essential to create a working relationship focused on the optimum care and concern for your children. Every co-parenting relationship will be unique, affected by your post-divorce family dynamics. However, there are guidelines that will enhance the results for children in any family. Here are some crucial points to keep in mind to maximize your co-parenting success.
Respect your co-parent's boundaries:
Chances are your former spouse has a different parenting style than you, with some conflicting rules. Rather than stress yourself about these differences, learn to accept that life is never consistent and it may actually be beneficial for your kids to experience other ways of doing things. Step back from micro-managing your co-parent's life. If the kids aren't in harm's way, let go and focus on only the most serious issues before you take a stand.
Create routine co-parent check-ins:
The more co-parents communicate with one another about the children, the less likely for small issues to grow into major problems. Select days/times for phone, email or in-person visits. Discuss in advance visitation transfer agreements. List who's responsible for what each day, week or month. Food, homework, curfews, health issues, allowances, school transportation, sport activities, play dates, holiday plans and more should be clearly agreed upon, when possible -- or scheduled for further discussion. Once you have a clear parenting plan structured -- follow it to the best of your ability. But allow for last-minute changes and special "favors" to facilitate cooperation.
Encourage your child's co-parent relationship:
Regardless of your personal feelings about your ex, your children need a healthy connection with their other parent. Keep snide comments to yourself and don't discuss your parenting frustrations with your children. Encourage your kids to maintain a caring, respectful relationship with their other parent. Remind them about Mom or Dad's birthday and holiday gifts. Make time in the weekly schedule for phone calls, cards, email and letters to keep the children's connection alive when your co-parent is at a distance. Your children will thank you when they grow up.
Be compassionate with your in-laws:
Remember that a Grandparent's love doesn't stop after divorce. If your children had a healthy bond with your former spouse's extended family, don't punish them by severing that connection. Children thrive on family attachments, holiday get-togethers and traditions they've come to love. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins can be a great source of comfort to children during stressful times and a sense of continuity with the past. Dissolving those relationships is hurtful to both your children and the other family. Think long and hard before making such an emotionally damaging decision.
Above all, be flexible. When you allow calls from your co-parent when the kids are in your home, they will be more receptive to your calls when the tables are turned. Remember, you are still a parenting team working on behalf of your children. That commonality should enable you to overlook the thorns in your co-parenting relationship and focus on the flowering buds that are the children you are raising.
Rosalind Sedacca is a certified corporate trainer specializing in both communication and relationship issues, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of the eBook, "How Do I Tell the Kids ... about the Divorce?" For more information on parenting after a divorce, go to her website here.