Sam was eight when his parents split up; however, he went on to have a stable and enjoyable childhood. After college, Sam got married, became a Christian editor and has raised a solid family of his own. Sam says he remembers the day his parents told him they were getting divorced and he remembers seeing his Dad be consistently nice to his Mom. His Dad stayed involved and his parents were civil. The parents came to all his school functions, his ball games and even threw his high school graduation party together. Sam reflects on his childhood in a positive regard, “Even though my parents were divorced my Dad still showed me what a Christian man looked like and how to respect women – my mom was always cordial to my Dad and I never saw them fight.”
What a priceless gift Sam’s parents gave him – being able to navigate the post-divorce co-parenting pathway is extremely difficult and yet it is the most important thing a parent can do after divorce. How parents speak to each other and how they act at school functions and ball games has a huge emotional impact on children. Sometimes co-parents can have significant challenges being in the same space as their former spouse. It can be very triggering and remind each other of negative dynamics in the past.
What kids need after divorce is for parents to work as a co-parent team that communicates, shares parenting time and makes decisions together. Being mindful of facial expressions, tone of voice and body language when co-parents are around each other will be very beneficial to the shared children. Choosing to speak positive about the other parent to the children is another important decision for post-divorce parents. Often hurting parents tell children too much or talk negative about their former spouse and that creates damaging effects to the identity and emotional stability of the children.
One other area that is important for divorced parents to do well is the hand-off, the exchanging of the children from one parent to the other. Most co-parents will do hundreds of hand-offs in a child’s life and it is important to be intentional about positive behavior, encouraging words and acknowledging each other at the exchange. The same way we would cheer for a child to go to school or to go off to summer camp is the same way we want to be positive when kids are leaving to go to the other home. Give them verbal and emotional permission to like and love their time at the other house and watch them bloom!!
Tammy G. Daughtry, The CoParenting Coach and Founder, CoParentingInternational.com