When you are a parent who is going through the challenges of divorce, and custody disputes, you might be looking forward to the end of the struggle when the divorce is final. But when you have children, the end of your divorce does not spell the end of your relationship or partnership with your former spouse.
The end of the marriage begins the unexplored territory of the co-parenting relationship, which can be even more challenging when you and your co-parent do not share the same style or approach to discipline. If this is a challenge you are facing with your child’s other parent, regardless of who has primary residential custody, we have a few tips to share that might help improve the effectiveness of your co-parenting relationship:
- Begin again. Do your best to approach co-parenting new relationship where you leave any acrimony or bitterness in the past and you work as partners with your child’s best interests in mind.
- Agree to disagree, but find a way to work together. Neither of you will be effective parents if you are undermining each other’s authority and discipline style with your child. Know that you are unlikely to change your co-parent’s philosophy any more than they are likely to change yours. Keep the common goal of raising a healthy, smart, well-adjusted child no matter what.
- Ask for guidance. Invite your co-parent to take a parenting class that is geared towards co-parenting after divorce. The University of Tennessee offers a monthly workshop, “Parenting Apart: Effective Co-Parenting– An Educational Program for Divorcing Parents,” where parents bring a picture of their child and they learn positive communication skills, how to help children get through divorce, how to keep children out of the middle of divorce conflicts and dynamics of the family after divorce.
- Get support for your unresolved conflict. Your relationship with your child and with your former spouse might improve if you took the opportunity to work with a therapist to resolve the holdover issues from your divorce. Talking with a therapist helps to diffuse the emotional charge and makes it less likely that you will take your frustration that you feel for your former spouse out on your children.
- Know the rules. It’s already been established that the two co-parents do not agree on how discipline should be handled, therefore the rules of both households will likely be quite different. However different they might be, establishing rules and informing each other about them helps clarify disagreements and gives your child a predictable framework and consequences for when the rules are violated.
- Abide by the Parenting Plan. The parenting plan approved by the court contains all the vital details about your child’s life. Following that plan will help eliminate many opportunities for disagreements and conflict.
- Learn to compromise. If you are willing to let go of the idea of winners and losers when it comes to parenting, and if you are willing to go first and yield your position for the sake of peace, it can lower the level of conflict in the relationship. It will also set a positive example for your child to see both parents trying to work together on important issues.
- Communicate clearly and often. Keep the lines of communication open with your former spouse. Do not make assumptions and as much as you can do not take whatever they say or do personally. The more you are willing to rise above, it will change the dynamic of your interactions with your ex.
Dealing with co-parenting after divorce can be a challenging prospect. If you are preparing for divorce and you are wondering about child custody and how it might be decided, or any other question about divorce, you are encouraged to contact one of our experienced Knoxville family law attorneys to schedule a consultation. Call LaFevor & Slaughter today at 865-272-4454, or fill out our contact form to learn more.