How to Deal with Divorce: The Importance of Healthy Co-Parenting
It’s happened. Divorce. You know the harm that a divorce battle can inflict on your children. You understand that divorce is long-term emotional process, more so than simply a legal or financial event. You can’t imagine the stressful toll it will take on you and your family.
Currently, we have a destructive tradition of divorce litigation in court that turns spouses into permanent enemies. The lack of communication between spouses during the divorce process and the relinquishing of control of your future to a judge escalates divorce conflict. It doesn’t have to be this way. Divorcing spouses have many decisions to make, and they may not be easy, but one clear decision you can both make is committing to a future of healthy co-parenting.
What is healthy co-parenting?
Co-parenting describes the common parenting situation when parents who are not married or not living together share responsibilities to care for their children. The basic principle of co-parenting is that a central developmental need of every child is to have a stable relationship with both parents.
Healthy co-parenting is essential to the psychological well-being of children. A commitment to healthy co-parenting means that parents put aside their differences with one another for the sake of giving children what they need. Children need parents who communicate with them regularly so that they are both equally involved and informed.
Parents should never communicate with their children in ways that criticize or degrade the other parent. Children need each parent to positively reinforce the relationship they have with the other parent. Children also need to feel that parents, though divorced, remain united as parents.
Mediation and co-parenting
In litigation, many parents don’t realize, until it is too late, that when they proceed to trial, a judge will render all decisions regarding the time they will be allowed to spend with their children, and who will make decisions about their care. In mediation, trained professional mediators can inspire healthier perspectives and help create a mutually beneficial parenting plan that addresses every issue a judge might otherwise decide: parenting time, legal decision-making, and shared financial obligations.
A thoughtful parenting plan might include agreements of weekly time-sharing, and arrangements for holidays, vacations, and summertime. Agreements about children’s health issues, safety, education, and religious upbringing will be addressed. Agreements about how co-parents will communicate with and about one another after divorce are the bedrock of any meaningful parenting plan.
Parents can be as creative as they like in mediation when designing their parenting plan that meets their and their children’s needs. In this way, mediation lays the foundation for healthy co-parenting.
Child psychologists agree that high conflict between parents during and after divorce can cause long term psychological damage to children. Communication breakdowns and misunderstandings during litigation can cause child custody battles that devastate families.
For that reason, parents should make every effort to de-escalate conflict between them during divorce. It’s easier said than done, but by engaging in a process that supports lowering conflict, rather than one that fans the fire of conflict, parents can indeed keep conflict low.
A trained mediator may help create awareness about recognizing and communicating changes in your child’s behavior with your co-parent to avoid misunderstandings, blaming and potential arguments. At the end of mediation, parents come away with a full parenting plan that meets the needs of both parents and children–and they will have done so without ever stepping foot in a courtroom.
Divorce doesn’t need to be a war that, in the end, no one wins. There are opportunities for hope, healing, and successes, in the midst of great challenge and difficulty. While divorce may be unavoidable and painful, no matter how you approach it, becoming an effective and committed co-parent can become your greatest victory.
Utilizing the mediation process for child custody can give you peace of mind knowing that your family’s best interests are being addressed. As our society becomes more health conscious when it comes to the adverse effects of living in highly stressful situations, divorce should also become less stressful more health conscious.