Divorce separates spouses, but should not end the parent-child relationship. Research continues to show that children benefit from the positive influence of both parents even after a marriage has ended.
To that end, sole-custody arrangements, where one parent is designated as the primary caretaker of the children, have now frequently given way to shared custody and parenting plans . Co-parenting is sometimes referred to as joint-custody, in which both parents share time and responsibility for the children.
Such arrangements require the coordination of two separate households, which can prove difficult because it necessitates communication between two people who would probably prefer to not talk at all. Nevertheless, successful co-parenting is vital to the development, health and happiness of the children, which should be the primary goal of both parents.
How to Make Co-Parenting Work
Conflict resolution guru Sam Margulies, Ph.D. says the following are some keys to successful co-parenting:
- Ensuring both households are adequately funded
- Being flexible and wise about scheduling
- Accepting the other parent's different parenting choices
- Accepting the other parent's new significant other
- Resolving conflict maturely and effectively
As research shows that stability and consistency are vital to a child's development and happiness. A parenting plan can be used to set rules and guidelines each parent agrees to follow, and put into writing mutual agreements. Some items that can be addressed in a parenting plan include:
- Daily routines
- Child care
- Extracurricular activities
- Professional appointments
- Holidays and religion
- Financial contributions
As children grow and change, so should the parenting plan. The goal should always be to ensure the mental, emotional and physical needs of the children are being met.
Divorce is not easy, especially with children. Conscientious parents can, however, minimize the negative impact on their children by effectively and lovingly co-parenting. Doing so will help ensure the stability and consistency children need to thrive.