Whether you live in New Jersey, California or somewhere in between, divorcing couples with children need to determine how to co-parent after they separate. But how do parents make the most out of their co-parenting plan? The NBC news program, TODAY, offers some advice on how parents can create an effective parenting plan.
When it comes to communicating and making day-to-day decisions about your kids, proper communication cannot be stressed enough. Try treating your parenting plan like a business, setting your emotions aside, to ensure you both make rational decisions.
It’s also important to try and keep discussions between you and the other parent and avoid allowing your children to be “messengers” or “witnesses” to your parental discussions. For instance, when separated/divorced parents exchange children, oftentimes it is convenient to discuss issues, but this is not the time. Kids are smart; they pick up on all of your nuances regarding facial expressions and tone of voices even through car windows. Try keeping your eyes focused on the beauty of your children. Communications are best out of the hearing distance of the children. Even better, try to communicate when they are asleep; that way there is nighttime to recover from any poor exchanges.
Once a parenting plan is in place, whether created by you and the other parent or via a court-order, it’s important to stick to the plan. Staying consistent with the schedule can prevent any disagreements in the future. A regular, predictable plan can also alleviate stresses placed on children during their day-to-day activities. In some cases, changing up a plan is necessary. Life is always throwing us curve balls. In a one-off situation, consider having a thorough discussion with the other parent in private about the change, without the inclusion of your children.
If a more drastic life-change is needed in a parenting plan, you may need to seek the assistance of an attorney to modify a court order or get the plan documented.
It is not always easy for parents to get along well after they divorce. But it is important to remain as civil as possible when it comes to communicating or making decisions about parenting your children.
The two of you have to work as a cooperative system – even if it seems next to impossible – in order to reduce the stress or anxiety on your children. Sometimes that means compromising. For example, if you encourage your children to participate in art or music while your ex-spouse encourages sports, the two of you can work out a schedule that involves both if the children enjoy the activities. Remember, conflict between parents will override any benefits children will gain from these activities.
When working as co-parents, what is in the “best interests of the children” is the ultimate goal. If you find it difficult to work together, seek help from professionals and therapeutic parenting resources. There is nothing more important than the welfare of your children.