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What Parents Can Do To Minimize The Impact Of The Divorce
For their mental and physical well-being children must know and see / experience actions that confirm for them that the divorce is between the adults and that their relationship with both parents are positive and permanent. Some of the things that parents can do to insure their children understand that are:
Explicitly tell your child/ren it is ok for them to still love the other parent.
Let them know it is ok for them to enjoy spending time with the other parent*, make sure they can talk about the fun they had without you making negative comments.
Listen when your child/ren wants to tell you about their visit with the other parent, but do not dig for information to use against the other parent and do not use the conversation to create arguments with the other parent.
Do not try to use your child as a spy, this is damaging to your child and erodes any trust in the co-parenting relationship.
Continue to reassure your child that you love him/ her when s/he leaves for a visit and when s/he returns.
*NOTE: There are exceptions to contacting or being in the proximity of the other parent when there are extreme conditions such as physical abuse to you and/ or the children or emotional abuse to the children.
…It is a well-established fact that a child experiencing the dissolution of the family structure will do better if the parents are able to get along and reduce trauma in an already traumatic experience. Co-parenting can be a viable option when it is implemented by parents who want it to work because they understand that the child’s needs supersede their own self-interest, and it can be successful and rewarding for both the child and the parents. (Scott, 2017)
Definition of Cooperative Co-Parenting:
“Cooperative co-parenting means considering your children’s need to love both parents instead of focusing on your feelings toward your ex-spouse. You do this because you understand that your children’s need to see the other parent is more important than your need to punish him or her. Healthy co-parenting is a way to carry your children through the crisis of divorce to safety.” (Weyburne, 2018)
Note: The definition of Co-Parenting can be applied to parents that stay together as well as those who are divorced. If there is constant conflict that is not cooperatively resolved in a family, it is worse for the children than a divorce where there is Cooperative or even Parallel Co-Parenting in which the emotional and physical needs of the children are a priority.
Definition of Parallel Parenting:
“The term ‘co-parent’ may also be used to describe a situation where, following divorce or separation, the child’s parents seek to maintain equal or equivalent responsibility for the child’s upbringing. In principle, it states that a child has always and in any case the right to maintain a stable relationship with both parents, even if they are separated or divorced, unless there is a recognized need to separate him/her from one or both parents.” (Gaspard, 2018)
Establishing a Relationship with the other parent that minimizes children’s exposure to conflict is important for mental health and stress related issues in your children – not to mention for yourself!
Can we say Co-parenting, again? Treating the business of raising your children, jointly, co-parenting, as well, . . . a business whose purpose is to give your children the benefit of having two parents they can rely on and love and provide the background to be successful adults as they mature. This means modeling successful relationship and communication skills, including positive conflict resolution skills.
Is Divorce the determining factor future problems in adulthood?
Research shows that divorce is not necessarily a determining factor of later problems in the lives of children as they mature, but regardless of whether parents are married or divorced it is the children whose parents have high conflict without cooperative resolution that are most effected.
There is evidence that children who have parents that “co-parent well”, whether they remain married or are divorced, have a greater likelihood of being successful in career and marriage. Some of the reasons that may be true are listed below.
When children have to move back and forth between homes, they learn about planning and organizing to have what is needed available, even when they are involved in changing situations.
Through modeling of respectful behavior and speech by parents to and for children and to and for each other, children learn higher self-esteem and how to practice the same behavior with others.
When each parent, encourages a loving, healthy relationship between the child and the other parent the child ends up having a more successful and healthy relationship with both parents, with the role-modeling and support inherent in those relationships. These primary relationships are what your children will be modeling their own future relationships on.
When children see the adults in their lives dealing with disagreements and conflict in a healthy, calm, positive, yet effective way, they learn those modeled behaviors. No life is totally free of conflict, this is a tool they will need. By having these tools early on and learning that people may disagree, yet come to a positive solution that works for all involved, maybe they won’t have to repeat the pattern of divorce and a broken family.
Through co-parenting, everyone who is involved with your child’s life, the school, relatives, friends and more will have an easier time supporting your child and continuing shared activities that give stability to your child’s life. Isn’t that what you really want, for your child to be supported by everyone around him/her and to experience stability in their life.
Through co-parenting, the child continues to have their whole family. This minimizes the loss to the child as well as to both parents. This gives the child an increased level of security.
When co-parenting is done well and the child is kept out of the middle of arguments and disagreements between the adults, the child experiences less anxiety and disruption in school or other activities.
Children, your children, are learning their skills for dealing with other people through watching you, their parents. They watch how you communicate, how you solve problems and how you collaborate with others, not taking things personally, so that their life can be nurturing. If you interact showing respect for others, collaborating to do the right thing for your child, that is what they will learn. When they learn to relate to others in a healthy way, communicating and working through conflict, this will serve them as adults in academics, career and personal relationships.
Children who see their parents taking responsibility for, responding to, the life they have and choosing to think and act in a way that empowers everyone involved, will learn to empower themselves.