At this point almost all of America has seen the video of the adorable 6 year girl talking to her mother about divorce. (If you have not seen it yet, take a few minutes and watch it HERE.) With advice such as "Don't be a Meanie, be a friend" and lines like, "What if there is just a little bit of persons and we eat them? Then no one will ever be here. Only the monsters in our place. We need everyone to be a person" the viewers can't help but stop and take notice - plus this wisdom is coming from a little girl so sweet you want to eat her...but in a figurative way of course.
We here at the San Diego Divorce Lawyers Blog have often blogged about successful co-parenting strategies and this is another one of those blogs. I know what you're thinking, another blog about co-parenting...yes, another blog about co-parenting. The truth is, co-parenting is an important issue, and in some cases the most important issue, so it felt like a good time to have another discussion about ways some parents have found success co-parenting. Don't get me wrong, there is no hard and fast rule for co-parenting. Every family is different; every child is different and no two situations will ever be exactly the same. But of all the issues you face in a divorce if you have children, this is the one issue that will follow you long after you have left the court house.
Play to your ex's strengths
In every parenting relationship each party has their strengths and their weaknesses. Nobody can be great at everything. Sometimes one parent is the more organized parent and the other parent has a more flexible schedule. Utilize those strengths by allowing one parent to coordinate the schedule and have the other parent put that schedule into action. This can be particularly helpful when you have multiple kids, in multiple after school activities (in San Diego that can mean locations all over town).
Commit to cooperation
Raising kids is hard...raising kids on your own is even harder. It took two people to bring them into this world and it is going to take two of them to raise them. (There are exceptions of course, but this blog is directed to two parent families that are struggling with co-parenting issues.)
This does not mean you and the other parent have to be friends. Sometimes that is not possible, but you will need to cooperate. This means reading and responding to emails and text from the other parent. Working around the inevitable changes in schedule that result from living in America in 2015, and agreeing to do your best for your children's sake is the only way you can successfully make a co-parenting relationship work. This leads me to...
Let go of control
There is a reason you and the other parent are not together. That is not likely to change once you split up. You may have different views on how to raise your children or how much time your children should be allowed to watch TV. That is okay, so long as both parents are committed to raising happy and healthy children. You cannot control how the other parent acts or parents in their home any more than the other parent can control how your home is run.
Silence your support system
Everyone has an opinion, and the stronger that opinion is, the more likely that person wants to share it with you. When it comes to co-parenting issues, opinions about the other parent serve no meaningful purpose. Your support system should be there to support you, not denigrate the other parent. Remember, kids are more perceptive than we often give them credit for, so be careful...little eyes and ears could be lurking anywhere.
Check your ego at the door
It is easy to see the other parent as a threat, especially if that parent is able to provide more time (e.g. the other side is the custodial parent) to your children or has more money to provide more material benefits to your kids (e.g. vacations, toys, cars).
Many parents want their children to believe they were not at fault for the breakdown of a relationship or that they are the better parent. Co-parenting is not a competition to be won. The only victory is watching your children grow up to be happy and healthy adults.
Focus on what is good
Many divorced co-parents have a great deal of guilt about the effect the divorce has on their kids. It's easy to focus on what's wrong and forget all the things that are right for your kids. Notice good moments--they don't have to be extraordinary, they just have to be good. When you are not with your kids, imagine those moments and feel good about them. Remember that your ex can't take these moments away from you and your kids. And never underestimate the positive effect these feel-good moments have on your kids.