Tips for Divorce and Co-Parenting

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | February 6, 2013

Divorce is a tough issue in group or anywhere for that matter. We often hear ‘unconditional love’ used to describe how we feel about our children but it is truer in describing how children feel about their parents. It does not matter to a child that a parent doesn’t pay child support or take them to theme parks— they still love both parents regardless. A child’s love is truly unconditional and children deserve to own that relationship without being judged.

Here are a few ground rules gleaned over three decades in group:

  • Don’t argue in front of children— ever.
  • Don’t contact the other parent unnecessarily. Only contact the other parent about issues concerning your children. Too many calls could be misinterpreted.
  • Don’t speak negatively about the other parent or allow others to deride them within earshot of children. Mutual respect can help get you over the rough times.
  • Don’t let your children overhear your phone calls. Children cannot ‘unhear’ negative comments.
  • Don’t grill or question the children about the other parent, the parent’s friends, the household or activities. Children are not spies or detectives and to put them in that role is stealing their childhood.
  • Don’t become the ‘Disney’ parent to try and swing the child to your side; it doesn’t work and will cost you a bundle as the price goes up.
  • Don’t try to make the kids feel guilty for their relationship with the other parent; they are not ‘traitors,’ they are children.
  • Don’t confide in the child about adult matters or conversations; custody, money, court issues, adultery, etc. If you need to talk, find a friend or relative who is not your child. There are support groups for divorced and divorcing people.
  • Don’t make promises to the children and expect the other parent to fulfill them. (Promises are a bad idea all the way around.)
  • Don’t communicate through children; call, write, e-mail or text the other parent directly.
  • Don’t ask children where they want to live or which parent they prefer; those decisions are reserved for adults.
  • Don’t schedule other activities during the other parent’s visiting time. If there is an activity you think the other parent would enjoy with your child, give the information to the other parent and let them take it from there. It is their choice whether or not to take advantage of the activity.
  • Don’t try to alienate the child against the other parent because in time the child will figure out the true facts on their own and others. If you lie to your children it will hurt your credibility with your child.
  • Don’t give a consequence for discipline and expect the other parent to carry it through unless you discuss the matter and agree ahead of time. If a parent only has two days to spend with a child, the child should not be ‘grounded’ the entire time. Some parents prefer to keep discipline matters in the household where it occurred; that way the parent setting the consequence is the one carrying it through. Nobody wants to be the ‘bad guy/gal’ all the time.
  • Don’t expect the other parent to spend most of their parenting time doing schoolwork or projects. Both parents need ‘fun’ time with the child.
  • Don’t allow stepparents to interfere with parent-to-parent or parent-to-child relationship. Keep communication between parents about their child. Any communications with stepparents should be respectful.
  • Don’t make excuses for the other parent. The only person who knows ‘why’ this or ‘how come’ that is the other parent. Refer child’s questions about the other parent to the other parent. Example: “I don’t know why he/she didn’t call; when he/she calls you can ask them what happened.”
  • Refer to the other parent positively, use “your dad,” “your mom,” or first name like “Ann” or “Bob.” Never call them bad names or use a negative tone of voice. A simple lilt in tone can speak volumes.
  • Think of your former spouse as a co-worker or a business partner and treat them accordingly.
  • Arrange visits ahead of time and confirm times so there are no disappointments. If plans change for any reason be sure to inform the other parent as soon as possible. If your child is expecting you then you should speak to the child to let them know.
  • Discuss parenting issues and try to get on the same page with regard to rules, discipline, academic expectations, bedtimes, etc.
  • Present a united front of you and your former spouse to your children. Show your children both parents love them unconditionally and will do what is right for them.
  • Keep the other parent up-to-date on school issues, medical information, mental health issues and all after-school activities and appointments.
  • Keep family life as consistent as possible as far as visitation, schedule and parenting.
  • Keep the other parent informed of your address and phone number. If you take the children on a trip you should give the other parent a phone number and address where you may be reached in an emergency; provide an itinerary if possible.
  • Encourage relationships with both sets of grandparents and extended family members.
  • Make sure your own family members treat your former spouse with respect.
  • When making decisions, always put the child’s needs and well-being first.
  • Keep your attention on the big picture and let go of ‘stuff;’ stick to important issues concerning your children.
  • Compliment positive incidents you notice; when children are returned on time and say, “Thank you, I appreciate that.”

Having children are for life! Moving forward from divorce may not be easy but is the only option. Your and the other parent’s goals should be a healthy, well-adjusted child who has relationships with their mother, father and other family members.

Do you have tips or suggestions you would like to share with other parents? We would love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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