Key One of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Putting the Children First
There’s perhaps nothing scarier about divorce than fears about how it will affect the children. With the divorce rate around half of all marriages, it is an important issue for families across the country. In the majority of divorce cases, the children are under the age of 18, likely living at home. A divorce will very likely disrupt everything they’ve grown up with and known. That puts a lot of responsibility on the parents.
In many cases, the problems between the adults in the home have little to do with the way your partner parents. In fact, in many cases, one of the things we continue to love about our ex is the way they parent.
So how can you and your ex do right by your children and, at the same time, end a bad or dysfunctional marriage? How can you remove the negative but still preserve—and nurture—the positive?
I recently sat down with Dr. Jeremy Gaies to discuss collaborative divorce. Dr. Gaies is a clinical psychologist, family mediator, and author of two books, A Clear and Easy Guide to Collaborative Divorce and the co-author of Mindful Co-Parenting: A Child-Friendly Path through Divorce. He is an expert in managing divorce with children.
Make a Plan
Dr. Gaies recommends drafting a parenting plan—together. This is an outline, put down in writing, of how the co-parenting relationship will work. Once you and your ex agree to a parenting plan, you must regard the agreement as set in stone. This is essential, according to Dr. Gaies. If agreements aren’t honored, tension, frustration and hurt rise. That means that distrust, and ultimately conflict, are not far behind.
Put the Children’s Interest First
This seems obvious but it’s critical that this be said out loud (or in writing). Parents need to start all conversations about divorce with this commitment. It must be their priority. And from there, the conversation continues and you can ask what options you have to ensure the best outcome for the kids.
Focus on the Future
Parents should accept and acknowledge that things have happened in the past that perhaps they’re not proud of. But for now, taking care of the kids’ needs must be paramount. And for that, you must think about where you want to see the kids in the future, and how you will actively ensure that they get there.
Talk Less, Say More
Parents at times need to learn to communicate a little bit less. That is, there’s a natural adjustment to the amount couples talk. And sometimes, engaging in the same kind of detailed and even intimate conversations that you did as a couple can lead right back to the trouble you found yourselves in when you were married. Simple, direct communication is best.
Parenting under any circumstance can be difficult. And after divorce, it’s something that demands extra care and attention.
Read the whole series about Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce:
- Mindful Co-Parenting: An Introduction
- Key Two of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Focusing Forward
- Key Three of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Communicating Effectively
- Key Four of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Honoring Agreements
- Key Five of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Maintaining Boundaries
- Key Six of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Managing Emotions
- Mindful Co-Parenting with Dr. Gaies: A Recap