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The (More Than) 10 Commandments of Co-Parenting

Learn about strategies for successful co-parenting from the attorneys at Massachusetts Family Law Group.
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    February 22, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- The (More Than) 10 Commandments of Co-Parenting

Divorce is hard enough, even when you have no children. With kids, it is that much harder. And if you and your ex aren't communicating, co-parenting becomes a tremendous challenge.

How do you co-parent with a former spouse you cannot stand? It's not easy - in fact, it's very difficult. However, there are things you can do to make it easier. If you (and ideally your ex) establish some basic "rules," your children will thank you in the long run.

The Commandments

There are many lists of dos and don'ts available for parents looking for advice on co-parenting. One piece of advice appears on most of these lists: Do not belittle or disparage your ex in front of your children, no matter how tempting it is. Even if your friends and family tell you that your kids' other parent is behaving badly, take the high road. This is one of the most important rules of successful co-parenting.

The family help gurus also have positive tips for co-parenting - things that you can do, rather than things you should not do. These "commandments" include:
-Put your children first at all times. Remember that being a parent is not about you.
-Talk with your ex about your child's health and development. Don't hoard information.
-Even if you and your ex have different parenting styles, try to establish consistent rules and routines, especially when it comes to homework, chores, bedtimes, limits on television watching and use of computers and cell phones.
-Treat your ex with respect and insist that your children do the same. Tell your children that they must be nice when they talk about the other parent (even when you would love to hear them make negative comments.)
-Encourage your ex to be involved in the child's activities, including attending school functions and extra-curricular activities.
-Negotiate the roles that other family members will have in the lives of your kids. For example, how often should they see their grandparents? What about aunts, uncles and cousins? Who will be invited to important celebrations in their lives, including birthdays, school and sporting events and special ceremonies?
-Agree on your children's activities. If your ex wants your daughter to participate in cross-country and you prefer she plays hockey, don't turn that into a battleground. Try to figure out what your daughter likes and encourage that.
-Understand that your children are not angels and that they may try to manipulate both of you. Kids do that even when parents are not divorced; why should things be any different after the divorce? Identify ways to help prevent your child from playing one parent against the other.
-When you talk with your ex, keep the conversation about the children, never about him or her. If the ex won't cooperate, stop the conversation and try again later.
-Use the phone whenever possible to discuss issues such as schedules and other business matters. Email has the potential to be misunderstood, and it's tempting to write things that you later wish you had not. If you do choose to use email, let your message sit for a while before you hit "Send." (Face-to-face meetings are most likely to become confrontational, so it is best to try to develop alternative ways of communicating.)
-If you have trouble staying focused on the business at hand, develop a script and memorize it. Write down your thoughts before you pick up the phone. Try to anticipate what the other parent might say and have an appropriate response ready if one is called for.
-Develop a shared document account that allows both parents to have access about information about the children. Google Docs and Dropbox are two commonly used, free services. You can post shared financial information, schedules, calendars, even scanned school documents and photos. Then you both have access to the same records.
-See if you can agree with at least one thing that your spouse says when you are arguing. Find at least a small piece of common ground.
-Tell your mother, siblings, friends and co-workers to get out of the way and stop talking negatively about your ex. You probably have enough trouble overcoming your own negative feelings without taking on someone else's.
-Try to forgive your ex. It may be hard, but discarding baggage from the past can make the present easier.
-Take a deep breath if you disagree with something your ex says or does before you respond in anger. Remember, it's not about you.

Co-parenting is a tough job even under the best of circumstances. When parents have difficulty getting along, following these commandments can help them, and more importantly, their kids.

Article provided by Massachusetts Family Law Group
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