Forever Parents

 Dori Shwirtz
February 10, 2021

Forever Parents

Dori Shwirtz

In my divorce mediations with minor children involved, I always come back to the children to try and remind the parties of their common bond and interest. No matter what has transpired during the marriage they will remain the parents and one day be grandparents together. This big picture outlook is helpful in getting them to an eventual agreement. 

Who but the parents know better what kind of plan to create for their own kids? Reminding the divorcing couple of their most important job usually empowers them and creates a teamwork mentality. But even in the most amicable of divorces it’s vital to tread lightly when it comes to their kid’s emotions and exposure to a major change in their lives. 

Crafting a plan that works for the entire family can be done but it takes careful thought and consideration. For example, it would be impossible to know a 2-year old’s schedule and needs 10 years from now. The parties must look at their agreement as fluid and both be willing to make changes and compromises down the road. Allowing for flexibility is key. 

But no matter how well thought out your agreement is, execution in real life and parental behavior is even more important.  Are you able to communicate with your ex regarding parenting matters? What if you’re concerned with your child’s behavior, can you approach the other parent? 

Finding a constructive way to co-parent is vital to the success of your child’s mental and physical wellbeing. Going from house to house, no matter how friendly you are can be a massive stressor on the kids.  Not only are they packing and unpacking the physical-clothes, toothbrush, etc.; they are packing and unpacking their emotions, anxiety and stress of having to go from one setting to the other. Maybe there are different rules and expectations in each home that can place a burden on the kids or just the moving around can cause a feeling of helplessness. 

Give your kids a platform to express themselves. Don’t force it on them but let them know your house is a safe space where they can explain how they are feeling at any given time. If they are given this time and attention to articulate their feelings it can be extremely helpful.  And sometimes it’s easier said then done, but both parents should absolutely refrain from bad mouthing the other to the children. There are proven studies that show this causing major harm to the kids which can last a lifetime. When you bring it back to the best interests of the children it’s easier for the parents to remember to “keep it to themselves”. 

If the parents need to come together to discuss their children, it’s also helpful not to point fingers. Even if you know you’re right about a particular situation, placing blame or acting superior will not help the situation. You may even have drastically different parenting styles which could lead to conflict. But a well thought out parenting plan that focuses on consistency should alleviate some of those differences. In fact, whenever you can, try to compliment the other parent. Recognize the positive things they are doing and let them know you are thankful for them contributing to your child in a positive way. 

It’s not easy but a healthy co-parenting relationship is possible and definitely worth the effort. So many kids of divorce actually have an upper hand over their peers in intact families. They are taught at an early age how to deal with conflict and express emotions in a healthy and constructive manner preparing them for the world that awaits them when they grow up. 

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