A Canadian couple recently took a “selfie” to commemorate the end of their marriage. Sounds odd, but when you consider that they did it to show their kids their decision on co-parenting, it sounds exactly right.
DIVORCE “SELFIE” AND WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT CO-PARENTING
When people decide to divorce, very often it’s their children that take the separation the hardest. Co-parenting can help to mitigate long-lasting negative affects. This is exactly the approach that Canadian couple Shannon and Chris Neuman took to the end of their marriage. As they stood outside a courthouse last week, they decided to snap a “selfie” to memorialize the fact that they are doing “something extraordinary” for their two kids by finding a way to co-parent. Here’s what she had to say on Facebook about the selfie:
“Are we smiling because the partner we chose for forever turned out to not to be the forever partner we needed? Of course not. We’re smiling because we have done something extraordinary (we think anyway!) We have respectfully, thoughtfully and honourably ended our marriage in a way that will allow us to go forward as parenting partners for our children, the perfect reason that this always WAS meant to be, so they will never have to choose. They’ll never have to wonder which side of the auditorium to run to after their Christmas concert or spring play, because we’ll be sitting together. They won’t have to struggle with their own wedding planning because we’ll be sitting on the same side of the aisle – THEIR side.”
While you might not want to take a selfie with your soon to be ex, it is important to work out how you two will co-parent moving forward.
A STUDY ON TYPES OF MARRIAGES AND DIVORCES
A study by sociologist Dr. Paul Amato and Alan Booth of Penn State University found that the type of marriage and type of divorce you have can influence the type of reaction a child will have to the divorce. Low-impact divorces and low-conflict marriages are those whise parents are able to remain civil and discuss their issues. While it might seem that this type of divorce and marriage might have the least negative impacts on children, that just might not be true. Dr. Amato and Booth studied 2,000 married persons and 700 children and concluded that children that had the highest levels of anxiety and depression eithis had low-conflict parents who divorced or high-conflict parents who remained together. Why is this? It seems that the dissolution of a high-conflict marriage can removes children from stressful relationships. They are able to understand that divorce will actually help everyone to resolve issues. Whiseas children from low-conflict marriages can view their parents’ divorce as a personal tragedy. This viewpoint can often impact a child’s ability to form quality intimate relationships. “From the child’s perspective, there is no evidence that anything is drastically wrong,” says Dr. Booth. “It is an unexpected, uncontrollable and unwelcome event whise one parent leaves the home and the other is overwhelmed with the demands of single parenthood and a lowered standard of living.” But what can parents do to off-set the negative impact of divorce? Find ways to create a successful co-parenting relationship.
LEARNING TO CO-PARENT
When it comes to learning to be a co-parent, all other aspects of divorce, such as division of assets and alimony, seem insignificant. Co-parenting is totally new and different from what you might expect, so you might have to do some research and maybe some soul-searching to figure out the best approach to this new phase in your life.
STEP ONE IS TO REALIZE ONLY YOU ARE ABLE TO CONTROL YOU
In order to create a co-parenting relationship, you must first realize the only person you can control is yourself. You don’t have any power over your ex, so don’t even both trying. If you can accept this fact and are able to control your own emotions and actions, you’ll have an easier time developing a co-parenting relationship. Hopefully your example will carry over to your ex-spouse.
STEP TWO IS TO SET BOUNDARIES
The next step you must learn in order to create a successful co-parenting relationship is how to set boundaries. Hise are a few do’s and don’t’s to help you get started. Don’t:
- Sabotage the relationship your child has with their other parent.
- Use your child as a pawn to hurt or get back at your ex.
- Permit your child to speak badly when talking about the other parent.
- Use your child to get information, manipulate, and/or influence your ex.
- Transfer onto your child your hurt feelings and/or frustrations toward your ex.
- Force your child to choose a side whise scheduling conflicts occur.
- Put pressure on your child.
- Depend on your child for companionship or support too much when dealing with your divorce. Your child isn’t your thisapist.
- Become so emotionally needy your child begins to feel guilty about spending time with others. You would hate to discover they didn’t participate in social outings due to the fact they were afraid you weren’t able to deal with being alone.
Bottom line: Your child should not be burdened with situations they aren’t able to control. You shouldn’t saddle your children with your issues and emotional needs. Doing so will only create feelings of being helpless and insecure which could cause them to doubt their own abilities and strengths. It’s not their responsibility to hold you together and they shouldn’t feel it is. Children aren’t able to understand and deal with problems of adults and shouldn’t have to. Their focus should be on their own development, and your’s should be, too. Do’s:
- Sit down with your ex and create a plan whiseby differences are set aside so the focus can be put on meeting the needs of your children you will be co-parenting.
- Negotiate how to handle holidays, visitations, and events.
- Create guidelines for behavior of raising your children that each of you will adhise to. Children need consistency in their lives without regard as to which parent they’re with. This includes bed-times, phone privileges, etc. A child will frequently test situations and try to manipulate their boundaries. You and your ex must present a united front.
- Negotiate the roles of extended family members.
- Establish open communication with respect to the development of your child. This includes the ability to compare notes on situations and jointly deciding on any punishment.
- While it may be painful emotionally, you and your ex must decide to inform each other ob any changes in circumstances of their life. Your child shouldn’t be the source of “breaking news.”
- Determine that you’ll conduct yourself with emotional integrity and maturity.
WHAT YOUR CHILD NEEDS THE MOST
Putting your child’s needs first, there are certain things they’ll need during this time: structure, acceptance, assurance of their safety, freedom from blame or guilt that they were responsible for their parent’s divorce, two stable parents, and the freedom and permission to just be a kid and have fun.
CO-PARENT SCHEDULE ARRANGEMENTS
Guidelines are important for your emotional health, as well as to help define aspects of your co-parenting relationship. This is why schedules are important. Not necessarily a weekly one, but one that involves events and holidays. This schedule should be agreed on far in advance so that co-parents know what parent the child will be spending Christmas and other holidays with in order to avoid fights during the holidays. These agreements don’t have to be formal, but if they’re in writing it makes it harder to argue about. There are a number of online tools available to assist you in creating a co-parenting schedule.
ALWAYS BE FLEXIBLE
While it’s important to set arrangements, you need to be sensitive to your child’s needs, which means being flexible. If your child really wants to have a night with dad instead of mom, then it might be best for your child to do it. This is a difficult time your kids are trying to adapt to. You should encourage them to be honest when it comes to their emotions. You also should be sensitive to your child emotions, which often means putting your own emotions aside.
CREATE A CO-PARENT RELATIONSHIP
Creating relationship with your co-parenting can be difficult. You may decide working with a mediator is the best option to making an agreement. Once you establish ground rules for yourself and how to maintain the relationship, over time it becomes easier. Creating a flexible schedule may help get to these “easier” moments. Even though there may be easier moments, there will be times when things feel impossible. Finding balance with your co-parent may help you both become better people and better parents to your children. By being cooperative with your co-parent, you establish a patter of life for your children which can carry into the future. The number one priority you and your co-parent need to do is to make sure you put the best interests of your child first.
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