For those of us who must co-parent our children due to divorce or separation, we know that co-parenting skills don’t always come naturally. Honing these skills, however, can have a lasting impact on the quality of your relationships with your children, as well as the other parent. Here are five techniques that will help a parent toward improving their co-parenting relationship with the other parent and their children:
- Know the orders and follow the orders: As a litigant involving custody of children, whether by way of divorce or paternity, you are required to know what your orders allow and don’t allow. Know those orders, to the point of memorizing them if necessary. Keep a copy in your vehicle in case enforcement is ever an issue.
- Be on time – always: Being on time is considerate of the other parent and it silently models for your children a virtue that will only benefit them later in life. Having a history of timeliness will serve you well should you ever find yourself delayed by traffic. A reputation for timeliness is something that must be built brick by brick. Each time you are required to be someplace, you are either adding a brick or subtracting a brick. Be a brick-layer for everyone’s sake.
- Civility: Keep all communications with the other parent business-like and as friendly as possible. Imagine that a family law judge is the third person present during every exchange and handle every interaction as if it were being viewed and analyzed by a judge. Remember that your children process more information than you realize, and their little eyes and ears are focused on you both during these moments when they are within earshot.
- Support the other parent: Continue to support the other parent’s parenting decisions; to the extent those decisions do not harm children, as if you were still a couple. Again, you are teaching your children, by your conduct, to respect the other parent.
- Be flexible, but confirm in writing: Sometimes life gets in the way of a rigid court order. To the extent that you and the other parent are able to communicate effectively, consider the benefit to the children by being flexible when requested. For instance, giving leeway on a custody change either for the benefit of the other parent or the children, or being willing to change vacation times because the other parent can obtain cheaper airfare if they take a vacation at a different time, can all work toward building good will with the other parent, as well as continue to benefit any children who witness their parents working together harmoniously. That said, always memorialize any agreed upon changes in writing for the protection of all parties involved.