More and more research is continuing to confirm what some experts have been saying for decades: Children need both parents in their lives to be happy, healthy and successful. For many years, it was assumed that children of divorced parents would live primarily with their mother. Fathers, by comparison, often had only limited time with their children and were not considered an equal part of the parenting process. While society is moving toward healthier attitudes regarding child custody—known as the allocation of parental responsibilities in Illinois—there is still room for improvement.
Joint physical custody is considered by many to be the best custodial arrangement for children who have two responsible, capable parents. Psychologist Richard A. Warshak says that the research is clear, “Children who spend at least 35 percent [of the] time with each parent, rather than live with one and visit the other, have better relationships with their fathers and mothers and do better academically, socially, and psychologically.” Children with two present parents are less likely to get involved with drugs and alcohol and have fewer instances of stress-related illnesses, anxiety, and depression.
How to Co-Parent Effectively
There are many different ways to co-parent but regardless of the specific custodial arrangement, both parents must work together to provide a safe and loving environment for their child. There is no perfect way to share parenting responsibilities but experts do encourage parents to:
- Communicate with one another. Your ex-spouse may be the last person you want to talk to, but if you have a child with him or her, you must find a way to effectively communicate. Use email or text messages if face-to-face conversations become volatile. Stick to the facts, avoid judgmental language and keep the conversation civil;
- Keep the focus on the children. Your ultimate goal and the goal of your ex-spouse should be to raise a happy, healthy child. You will often have to put yourself second in order to co-parent effectively;
- Present a united front. You and your ex should agree to basic rules and boundaries. For example, when should homework be completed? When is bedtime? What chores and responsibilities are your child expected to accomplish? The importance of structure and stability cannot be overstated;
- Do not put your child in the position of mediator. Some parents unconsciously encourage their children to be the go-between of their parents. This is very stressful for children and often leads to miscommunication and resentment. Speak directly to your ex-spouse instead of going through the children; and
- Speak kindly about your ex. Avoid telling your child negative things about the other parent. When you have the urge to denigrate your ex, vent to another trusted adult instead of your child. No matter what has happened between the two of you, your ex is still your child’s parent and you have no right to interfere with their relationship, even indirectly.
Efficient, productive co-parenting takes a great deal of work, attention to detail, and a well-organized written parenting plan. To learn more about developing long-term co-parenting strategies, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney. Call 630-377-7770 for a free consultation at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. today.