Co-parenting is the new normal for American families.
According to research, first time marriages, the divorce rate is around 50% and it climbs to about 66% for second marriages. This results in around 40% of children having biological parents who have or will divorce.
Social acceptance help kids with the changes that divorce brings
The good news is that as our culture has become more accepting of two-home families.
This is because social acceptance help kids with the changes that divorce brings. Today, there are fewer serious consequences for children’s social, emotional, and academic development compared to fifty years ago.
For example, in the 1970s, kids “from broken homes” were more likely to drop out of school, become addicts, become teen parents and be poor parents and partners. But, there are still some lasting problems.
We live what we learn
Daughters of divorced parents have a 60% higher divorce rate and sons have a 35% higher divorce rate. There is no clear answer for this but many feel these kids never absorbed the skills for making love last.
The following information is what all parents need to know whether or not they share a home. Parents who practice these skills are teaching their kids how to form stable relationships when they grow up and become parents.
Co-parenting is for your grandchildren’s happiness as much as your children’s well being and your own sanity!
This is the purpose of co-parenting. The key point is that whether you like it or not, you have a life long relationship with your child’s other parent.
How you conduct your half of this relationship can make your life easier and teach your kids all the life skills they would have learned if the partnership had worked out.
Co parenting and positive family culture
Kids have the right to a positive family culture in both homes. Kids need to experience a positive attitude between their parents, no matter what.
Kids have not yet developed separate identities from both parents.
When a child hears or sees one parent putting down their other parent, they feel as though a deep part of them got hurt. To a child, this feels like they are the one being bashed by the parents This makes kids insecure, confused, anxious, angry, and depressed.
Putting down the other parent erodes the child’s self-confidence.
That’s why it’s important to not retaliate if your ex disrespects you. No matter how unfair they are, how many power tactics they use, how many games they play, how angry, frustrated or helpless they make you feel, no matter what: stay positive about your ex when your child is around.
How else will your child learn to be calm and respectful under pressure if you blow the precious opportunity to teach this?
If you call your ex-names, cuss at them, say negative things, or allow anyone else to do the same within earshot of your kids, you’re teaching kids that trash talking is ok.
Think is this what you want your child to assume is normal? Who else is holding up high standards except you? Is this how you want your child to behave when they grow up?
Saying negative things about the other parent is putting your need to vent before your kids’ needs for emotional stability.
You are modeling being self- absorbed and selfish.
You are teaching how to not notice or care how a tantrum hurts those closest to you. As parents, we have the right to be angry and to vent, but not around the kids. Find other people and places to unload that are always out of earshot from your child.
Your strong feelings about your ex are adult feelings.
When you share them with your kids, you are treating your children like adults. This is called parentification and it is emotional abuse.
Kids need to be kids and not be burdened by an adult drama.
Getting trapped in adult drama derails them from childhood. Parentified kids have impaired intellectual, emotional, and spiritual growth. All kids need to feel secure and carefree enough to explore their world. They cannot do this if they have to sacrifice their innocence and spontaneity to take care of a sad Dad or a mad Mom.
The danger is that parentified kids get intoxicated with having an adult-level sense power. They feel grown up listening to their parent’s problems, or giving their parent comfort or advice. Such kids may feel proud or superior to their “babyish” friends.
Sadly, these kids become such helpful, clever, mature little adults that no one sees how they’ve been robbed of the right to be carefree.
My Mom had good boundaries. My Dad could be a real jerk, but she never once went there. She allowed me to have my own happy relationship with him. As I got older, I slowly began to see how unfair and manipulative he was towards her. As a teen, I would confront her about it.
She’d gently say “he’s your Father” and let me work it out for myself. I’m so grateful she never made me take sides.
What to do instead
Take a deep breath
Let it go, the drama is not worth harming your child.
If your ex continues to be verbally abusive, it’s even more important that your child can count on you to provide a haven of security and peace in a home that is filled with respect and dignity.
Work it out
Go to the gym, go for a walk, take a karate class. Channel and burn off your frustration and rage so you can be clear and calm when dealing with the ex.
Talk it out
If your friends and family aren’t there for you, find a group, a class, a therapist.
Find just 1% of something positive about your ex. Speak positively to your kids about that.
Recall that your ex has positive traits that can help your child. Teach your kids to see the good side of a badly behaving parent. Doing this will protect your child by taking them out of the middle. If you don’t protect them, who will?
And the more you hate your ex, the more important this mental discipline is. Your child needs at least one of you to be an adult!
- Describe a story of when you made a choice to behave better than your ex, even when you were furious.
- Describe a story from your childhood of a time when your parents put their need to vent before your need for emotional security.
- Describe a story of time from your childhood when you switched roles with your parents and took care of them.
- What do you do to physically work out the tension from the stress of a high conflict separation?
- Who can you turn to in order to vent, talk, feel understood?
- Describe your ex’s positive traits, even if you can only find 1%:
Co-parenting when it’s not fair
Many parents complain that their ex hurts their child with broken promises, late or missed visits, pawning off the kids on your in laws or the TV instead of sharing quality time, or making an ugly scene.
Such arents are conflicted. They don’t want to trash talk the ex but they can’t ignore their child’s painful experience.
Some tips to help your child to heal from unfair parenting and gain emotional IQ
Validate your kid’s sense of confusion, anger, or loss. “I imagine you’re mad because Mom didn’t show up at your school play after she promised to be there today”
2) Remove guilt or blame
“It’s not your fault that Mom wasn’t there!” It is normal for kids to believe that it’s their fault when a parent lets them don. This is because, from a child’s perspective, it is emotionally safer to feel guilty than to think that a parent is uncaring.
3) Clarify contradictions
Painful moments are teachable moments.
Helping kids to see the contradictory and imperfect nature of human beings builds resiliency and prepares them for adult life. “ You are hurt, and your Mom loves you, and she broke her promise to come to your play.”
“ I’m sorry that she missed seeing how awesome you were on stage.”
It’s super important for kids to be able to place their emotional experience (being hurt) in the big picture of both their strengths (I’m an awesome actor) and relationships (Dad is there for me).
This prevents them from getting stuck in their hurt or disappointment. Reassurance “resets” their self-esteem and identity.
Don’t dwell on the situation.
You want to validate your child’s negative feelings, remove their sense of being at fault, clarify the contradictions, reassure, and then move on. “ Let’s go home and play Candy Land, you can go first”
- On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best ever and 1 being not at all, how well did your parents do in raising you in a positive family culture?
- How much did they speak with warmth, respect, and see both the good and bad in one another without judgment?
- How well are you and your co parent doing in creating a positive family culture?
- What has your child learned so far about coping skills, relationships, and trash talking?
Make collaborative efforts towards building a peaceful and secured have for your child. Cultivate a warm environment at home where your child feels respected, accepted, loved and cared for. Work together at raising a happy, confident and responsible child who grows to be self assured and compassionate.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
More by Valerie Keim