30 Tips for Divorcing Parents

Learn a few tips on how to be the best co-parent you can be for your children.

Coparenting with an ex may present a few challenges, not the least of which is communicating with someone you may have been completely unable to talk to, or let's face it, be in the same room with. However, your children deserve the best out of both of their parents, especially after a major life change, such as separation or divorce. Successful coparenting can help protect your children from divorce and/or custody-related stress.

Here are some tips on how to get along well enough with your ex to make sure your children's emotional and physical needs are met and help your children get through the divorce feeling loved and secure.

  1. Divorced parents can succeed at co-parenting.
  2. If you have not done so already, call a truce with your ex. (Note: Your ex does not have to take the same action.)
  3. Establish a business relationship with your child's other parent. The business is the coparenting of your child(ren). In business relationships there are no emotional attachments or expectations of approval and emotional support. Appointments are made to talk about business, meetings take place, agendas are provided, and discussions focus on the business at hand. Everyone is polite, formal courtesies are observed, communication is direct, and agreements are explicit, clear, and written. You do not need to like the people you do business with, but you do need to put negative feelings aside in order to conduct business. Relating in a business-like way with a former spouse can feel strange and awkward. If you catch yourself behaving in an "unbusiness"-like way, end the conversation and continue the discussion at another time.
  4. Give the other parent the benefit of the doubt. Do not second-guess him/her regarding discipline or rewards.
  5. Do not suggest possible plans or make time arrangements directly with children under 12 years of age, and always confirm any arrangements you have discussed with an older child with the other parent as soon as possible.
  6. Send and return children who are clean, rested, and fed.
  7. Do not use an answering machine or caller ID to screen calls from the other parent or limit telephone access between your children and the other parent. Ensure that the children are available to speak to the other parent on the telephone up until their actual bedtimes.
  8. Do not discuss divorce disputes, custody issues, or finances with your children or allow them to hear you discuss these issues with others. Do not speak ill of the other parent, or the other's parent's relatives, friends, or loved ones in front of the children. Do not use body language, facial expressions, or other subtleties to express negative thoughts and emotions about the other parent. Your child will pick up on those cues.
  9. Do not send messages or money with your children.
  10. Support your children's right to visit their grandparents and extended family, unless there is a valid reason to try and limit contact. Children generally benefit from knowing their roots and heritage.
  11. Do not ask your children for information about the other parent's household, friends, income, or activities.
  12. Do not act as a mediator, referee, or defense attorney between your children and the other parent.
  13. At pick-up time, do not honk your horn in front of the other parent's house. However, don't go in either—unless you are invited in. Always be on time for pick-up and drop-off and have the children ready to go.
  14. Transfers can be painful times. Be kind and patient with each other and your children.
  15. Never put your children in a position where they have to choose between their parents or decide where their allegiance lies.
  16. Expect that your children may feel confused, guilty, sad, and/or abandoned in response to the divorce. Acknowledge their feelings as normal and remind them that even though the family is undergoing a major change, you and ex will always be their parents and love them.
  17. Remember, even if the other parent disappoints your child or fails to honor a time commitment, you should tell the child that in spite this, the other parent loves the child very much.
  18. If your kids want to talk, listen.
  19. Keep your children informed about the day-to-day details of their lives and your separation/divorce in a way that they can understand—keep things simple and age appropriate.
  20. Maintain as many security anchors (continuation of relationships, rituals, and the environment) as possible for your children.
  21. If you need to make a change to the parenting schedule, notify the other parent as soon as possible.
  22. Your child's relationship with both parents will influence your child's relationships in the future. Allow your child to love both parents without fear of angering or hurting the other.
  23. Remember that schedules will have to change from time to time to accommodate the other parent and your child's development.
  24. Keep parenting issues separate from money issues.
  25. One day, you and your ex may be grandparents to your children's babies. Consider working together to rebuild trust and communication. You have a long time ahead of you. Be patient; emotional wounds need time to heal.
  26. If possible, tell your children about the pending separation together before one parent leaves. Plan a transition time if you can.
  27. Ensure that boyfriends, girlfriends, and potential stepparents go slow, stay out of the divorce, and don't interfere in a child's relationship with either parent. Do not encourage the child to call potential stepparents Mom or Dad.
  28. Divorce is not an event, it's a process. Allow yourself, your ex-spouse, and your children at least two years for readjustment.
  29. Divorce, in itself, will not destroy your children. It is your reaction to the divorce that has the power to destroy their coping mechanisms.
  30. Don't use your children to fill your need for companionship. Seek out support from friends, family, support groups, a divorce coach, and, if necessary, from a licensed mental health professional. Consider joining Parents-Without-Partners, Co-Dependent's Anonymous, or a group for divorced and/or widowed persons.
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