Ending a marriage can be a devastating experience for both spouses. But psychologists say conflicts between you and your partner are even harder on your kids. Sometimes, minimizing those negative feelings can be challenging.
Most divorcing parents try to make the process as painless as possible for their children. However, what should the parenting relationship look like once your divorce is final, especially if you and your ex don’t get along?
Co-parenting vs. parallel parenting
The healthiest situation for kids has both parents actively involved in their lives unless abuse or addiction is present. The future parenting dynamic typically lies somewhere between two extremes:
- Co-parenting: In this relationship, parents still communicate fully regarding their children and make decisions together. They maintain mutual respect, are flexible in addressing problems and always put their kids’ needs first. They may even attend family events together.
- Parallel parenting: In this scenario, one or both parents want as little contact as possible with their former spouse as this is the only way to minimize conflict. Parenting decisions are typically strictly guided by the custody order and visitation agreement.
Which parenting strategy is right for you?
Experts say most divorced parents fall somewhere in the middle of these two models, and one parent typically leans more toward co-parenting. At the same time, the other may be more comfortable with parallel parenting. To figure out where you fit, ask yourselves these questions:
- What needs to be done to eliminate conflict so our kids can live peacefully in a nesting situation or separate households?
- How important is it that both of us work together to raise our kids?
- Am I comfortable communicating with my ex?
- How much contact can I take without getting upset?
- How much contact do I want with my former spouse?
Craft a detailed parenting plan
Even if both parents still get along, it’s vital to work with your attorney to develop a comprehensive parenting plan outlining how each of you will spend time with your kids – especially how holidays, birthdays and vacations will work.
You should also spell out how medical, religious, educational and all major decisions will be made. Remember, your parenting plan should always put the needs of your children first. Since no two families are alike, no parenting plans will be identical.