The increasing divorce rate, the notion of joint custody, and the greater involvement of fathers in raising children have given rise to a new understanding of co-parenting. Despite the pain of their separation, ex-spouses are still linked by a common interest: their children.
Marriage and family therapist Capucine Couchet shares some insights about how separated or divorced spouses can co-parent more effectively.
Why is co-parenting important?
It’s important for you and your ex to agree on matters around the general wellbeing of your children: caregiving, vacation, health, school, extracurricular activities. Having both parents on the same page is reassuring for the children and gives them a sense of structure.
How can ex-spouses become effective co-parents?
Like it or not, exes are still co-parents. In most cases, they are both legally responsible for their children. The challenge is to evolve into a positive co-parenting couple and to avoid conflict. This means that children should not be used as stakes, messengers, or worse, for blackmail. The other partner should not be disparaged as a parent. A mother who tells her son that his father is incompetent is unwittingly criticizing her son, as there is a part of the father in him. Criticism creates a conflict of loyalty that harms the child.
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Parents who seek my advice understand intellectually that their children come from both mother and father and carry a part of each parent within themselves. But when jealousy, sadness, or anger take over, this understanding escapes them. It is so important to communicate with the other parent without involving the child, and in a neutral location (in a café, for example).
What happens when communication is impossible?
To avoid arguments, use text messages or email for communicating with your ex. In the case of conflict, it is better to consult a therapist to resolve any anger, bitterness, or lingering issues that may block communication between the parents and affect the children. Exes who consult me about situations concerning their children often end up talking about themselves and their bitterness. As long as the relationship between exes remains volatile, it will be difficult for them to become a positive co-parenting team, so the first step is really to seek some degree of acceptance and forgiveness.
This article was originally published in the French Edition of Aleteia.