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Co-parenting and focusing on the child after divorce - Part 1

Individuals get divorced for a number of reasons but the general theme is that two individuals who once thought they were compatible no longer are a good match. When parents divorce the choice affects more than the divorcing individuals and many parents worry how their children will fare after divorce. According to one study, the intensity of conflict between parents is one of the best predictors of how children will do after their parents' divorce.

To manage conflict some parents choose to co-parent by developing their own child custody arrangements and by creating a plan to make joint parenting decisions. In this post and the next we will discuss ways that parents can minimize conflict and make shared parenting decisions.

A marriage and family therapist based in Los Angeles suggests that divorced parents should think of their duties to co-parent as a business venture where they both have a stake in the successful upbringing of their child. At the center of the idea is that parental conflict reduces the chances of a stable childhood post-divorce. For example, parents should not yell or berate a former partner because a colleague or client would not be treated that poorly. Instead parents should create a parenting plan that outlines custody and joint parenting decisions.

To begin, the plan may include a brief story both parents can use that explains to the child why the marriage ended. The shared story can explain how both parents believed they would be together forever but were wrong and that the mistake is not the fault of the child. According to the family therapist the statement, "gives kids the freedom to love both parents."

Next time we will continue to talk about how divorced parents can successfully co-parent.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "The child-focused divorce," Elizabeth Bernstein, Sept. 6, 2011

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