Co-parenting after divorce can be challenging. We all know that.
What most people want to know is what is the best co-parenting after divorce advice? We say that the best thing you can do for your children is to stop being in conflict with the child's other parent. We always tell our clients that your kids will get over the fact of your separation. What they will not get over is the fact of their parents remaining in conflict. Most of the research says that when parents are in conflict, it is very costly to kids' well-being.
Let's look at the situation relating to Jasper and Julia. Jasper and Julia are 15 and 12 years old. Their parents, Lawrence and Linda, separated when Jasper was 8 and Julia was 5. At a trial more than seven years ago, Lawrence and Linda fought over the parenting plan for their kids. Linda won the trial and has most of the parenting time and parenting responsibilities of Jasper and Julia. Lawrence gets parenting time with Jasper and Julia every second weekend and half of all school holidays.
Unfortunately, despite there being a trial, Lawrence and Linda are still in constant conflict about the actual scheduling of time between the two households. Because Linda continues to resent her marriage to Lawrence, she fails to accept that her children have a tight bond with their father.
Unfortunately for Jasper and Julia, they know their parents remain in conflict. They know not to share with their Mom when fun things happen with their Dad. They are not able to keep photos of their Dad in their Mom's house. They know not to talk about their Dad and his extended family in front of their Mom.
Because of the tension between their parents, Jasper and Julia are still robbed of part of the enjoyment that their childhoods deserve.
The good news is that most parents behave better than Jasper and Julia's. Most parents want what is best for their kids and get it on an intuitive basis that their kids should be entitled to love both of their parents. They should be able to do so without shame and reservation.
Lawrence and Linda are so embroiled as to who is “right” in their conflict, that they often do not realise how the actual conflict itself hurts their kids. Jasper and Julia don’t care who is “right.” They care that their parents are still fighting despite their divorce many years ago.
At Hemminger Law Group Westshore, we deal with tonnes of questions from our clients about co-parenting after divorce. Although we are obviously not experts in the psychological effects of divorce and how to best protect your children, we do have some pretty strong views about the way things should go.
We know kids should feel free to love both their parents. We know that kids should feel at home at each of their parents’ home. We know that kids should be able to keep their special things with them rather than having what a particular parent purchased remain at that parent’s house. We know that kids should enjoy special holidays without being transported long distances to satisfy their parents on special days (like Christmas, for example).
Below is a very helpful guide we came across years ago for people who are co-parenting after divorce. We are grateful to have permission from the author, Lois Nightingale to re-print it here (and hand it out to our clients).
As we hear, love is not only a feeling. Love is behaviour. When clients have questions about co-parenting after divorce, this guide does a really good job of helping them “get it” concerning what children need, and what children should be entitled to despite their parents separating or being separated.
Although parents will ultimately make mistakes when co-parenting after divorce, we think that continued effort can help parents move forward in a positive way that is great for their kids.
When co-parenting after divorce, we invite parents to remember that kids should have the right to:
Dr Lois Nightingale, PhD has written the Bill of Rights of Children in order to assist families in understanding how conflict between parents can affect children after the separation.
The Bill of Rights of Children, in our view, assists parents when co-parenting after divorce in returning the focus of parenting back to the children and in seeing the potential conflict from the child’s perspective.
She is the author of the book, My Parents Still Love Me Even Though They’re Getting Divorced, a story/workbook for children and parents facing divorce.
Written by Val Hemminger, lawyer at Hemminger Law Group Westshore