It’s always ideal for children to grow up in a home with a mother and father who are in a healthy, loving relationship, but the reality is that nearly one third of children in our country are growing up in separated families.
“Every separated family goes through three phases, says Jeffrey Scott Steiner, M.Ed., executive director at Dads’ Resource Center. “During the initial reorganization mum and dad must figure out where the children will be and when, and how they will be supported. Once these elements are established, there is a period where they figure out how to coparent and make it work as separated parents. When mum and dad can establish a working partnership that results in routine without conflict, they and the children begin to experience relief, are able to heal and evolve. At that point everyone can start to move forward to establish their new lives.”
In his years of work in the field, Steiner has honed in on key points that he believes are important to focus on to help this transition go as smooth as possible.
Read on for Steiner’s top tips for co-parenting successfully.
Make the best interests of the children priority #1
“When separations become acrimonious the focus almost always is on the inability of the parents to get along. What gets lost is how much the negatively impacts the children. For the benefit of the children separated parents must develop amicable working partnerships. If they do not, everyone gets stuck and are unable to move past the pain of the separation.”
Do not become overly reliant on the legal and court systems to sort out differences.
“Family court is meant to be a temporary intervention to help separated families though the initial transition period. Falling into the trap of relying on it long term enables a confrontational mindset between the parents, objectifies the children and keeps them in a perpetual state of uncertainty.”
“If a relationship with children gets to the point that mum and dad are going their separate ways there will have been things they have said or done that leave ill feelings. As hard as it might be, they must let the past stay in the past and work on forging a new relationship based on doing what is best for their children.”
Find grace and acceptance
“Mom and dad need to avoid falling into the trap of being overwhelmingly focused on the other parent’s negatives, perceived micro-aggressions or the persistent assumption of their worst intentions. More than anything in the world, the children want and need mum and dad to be cordial, accommodating, and flexible while working together on their behalf.”
Treat coparenting as a partnership
“Their children are mum and dads’ shared interests. They treat them as such by being sure to communicate with one another about anything related to their schooling and health, what is going on with their activities and how they are developing as human beings. As well as ensuring that the children have as much access as possible with both parents.
By committing to finding a way to collaboratively coparent mom and dad can become happier and more able to move forward in their own lives without being burdened by a toxic relationship with the mother/father of their children. More importantly, they can allow their children the benefit of a healthier and more tranquil transition into a separated family.”