What is co-parenting?
Is it possible for divorced parents to take a joint approach to parenting?
Co-parenting is not a new term, but has become more mainstream after high-profile divorces that include children such as the divorces of Sandra Bullock and Jesse James. Co-parenting is also included in the new Children’s Act of 2005 in South Africa.

Guidelines to the basics of co-parenting:

A family system consists of parents and children. After a divorce, this family system still exists, but now in two homes.  A “bridge” between the two homes for the children is created by cooperatively managing the needs of the children through a Parenting Plan.

Even amicable divorces can be stressful on children. A good example is Demi Moore and Bruce Willis – parents that put the children’s emotional needs first when making any parenting decisions.

Benefits of co-parenting:

•    Feel secure. When confident of the love of both parents, kids adjust more quickly and easily to divorce and have better self esteem. They are less likely to have feelings of abandonment.

•    Benefit from consistency. Co-parenting fosters similar rules, discipline, and rewards between households, so children know what to expect, and what’s expected of them.

•    Better understand problem solving. Children who see parents continue to work together are more likely to learn how to effectively and peacefully solve problems.

•    Have a healthy example to follow. By cooperating with the other parent, you are establishing a life pattern your children can carry into the future.

The key to a successful co-parenting situation is to ensure that the focus remains on the well-being of the child. Never place children in the middle, by using them as messengers or sounding boards for issues.

In front of the children, be sure to focus on peaceful, consistent, and purposeful communication with your ex, whether in person or on the phone. Communication with maturity starts with listening, so ensure that you convey the tone of understanding, not necessarily agreement. Commit to talking consistently so that you convey the message to the children that you are a united parental front, but stay kid-focused.

Parenting is full of decisions, so cooperating and communicating key issues, such as visitations, common household rules, shared views of discipline, and daily schedules are important. They are also important so the children know what to expect at each home, reducing the chance of behavioural issues. Other essential decisions include:

•    Medical needs. Focusing on the best medical care for the child can help reduce anxiety for everyone. Whether you decide to designate one parent to communicate primarily with health care professionals or attend medical appointments together, keep one another in the loop.

•    Education. School plays a major role in maintaining a stable environment for your kids, so be sure to let them know about changes in your child’s living situation. Speak with your ex ahead of time about class schedules, extra-curricular activities, and parent-teacher conferences, and be polite to him or her at school or sports events.

•    Financial issues. The cost of maintaining two separate households can strain your attempts to be effective co-parents. Set a realistic budget and keep accurate records for shared expenses. Be gracious if your ex provides opportunities for your children that you cannot provide.

Have you considered co-parenting?

For more information, visit www.coparenting.co.za

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