While a traditional two-parent household was long revered as the best environment for children, these days, there is a lot of discussion as to how different family configurations may be beneficial. Still, virtually everyone agrees that stability, consistency, and respect are needed to create the best situation for children living in the home. Sadly, too many children find themselves in the middle of a battle between the two people they love the most – a situation that can be sad, scary, and even traumatic. Therefore, parents should strive for effective communication to result in the best possible outcome for the kids.
Did You Know? Research studies indicate that a successful co-parenting relationship between exes is more beneficial than a two-parent home with a hostile, non-communicative environment.
Parents dedicated to providing a stable environment for their children but have decided to divorce should consider pragmatic co-parenting as an emotional and financial solution.
Definition of Co-Parenting
“Co-parenting” refers to a relationship between two parents who are no longer romantically involved but still share responsibility for child-rearing. Sometimes experts use the term to describe two people who may not be parents, such as a single mom and her grandmother, who share responsibility. However, in most cases – and for the sake of this article – we will refer to co-parenting as the relationship between a divorced or separated couple, even if they were never officially married.
In these arrangements, both parents decide to set aside personal differences to create and implement a parenting plan geared towards the child’s best interest. Effective co-parenting requires ongoing communication and shared responsibility. This can be challenging for two people going through a break-up. But if the adults involved can put the child’s well-being ahead of their emotions, their children will enjoy many benefits.
How Children Benefit from Co-Parenting
Solid Relationships: Children who are correctly co-parented can better establish and maintain healthy relationships with both parents, which is vital for emotional well-being -especially as an adult.
Sense of Stability: Stability comes from consistency. During and after a divorce, everything can seem unstable and chaotic to a child. Therefore both parents need to focus on consistently communicating, being there when they promise to be there, and setting manageable expectations. Children who feel stable in a home environment are more capable of facing challenges without getting too overwhelmed.
Minimized Parentification: A “parentified” child feels compelled to care for their parents’ feelings and social lives. A parentified child may become the object of their parent’s emotional pain. They may begin to serve as the de facto go-between to try to bring their parents back together. While children can become parentified even when their parents are still together, the incidence of parentification is elevated following a divorce. Children who sense that mom and dad are effectively communicating and managing the divorce emotionally are less likely to “try to be the adult” in their stead.
Conflict Resolution. Children absorb what they see and experience, learning about relationships and conflict resolution during their split. When they watch their parents co-parent well, children can cooperate with others even when it is challenging.
Older children of divorced couples often speak of feeling “split down the middle.” Parents often struggle to gain the upper hand when it comes to their child’s love and attention – and this can be harmful to a child in the long run. Effective co-parenting can ease this burden on their minds. No child should have to choose between two people they love.
Ask Your Family Law Attorney
Whether you use a court-appointed mediator or develop a co-parenting plan on your own, you will file your plan with the court as part of your custody agreements. Therefore, it would be best to discuss your desires with your family law attorney early on in the process.
Richard V. Ellis is a family law and bankruptcy attorney based in Sarasota, Florida.