mindful co-parentingIf you are divorcing and have children, one of the best books about co-parenting is “Mindful Co-parenting” by Gaies and Morris.  It includes excellent chapters about:

  • choosing a child-focused divorce;
  • how divorce affects you as a parent;
  • how divorce affects your children;
  • selecting your co-parenting approach; and
  • coming up with a parenting plan.

I’ve had the experience of co-parenting my own children and step-children through and after divorce.  I’m happy to say that it went very well.  My children are now well-adjusted adults.  I have a close relationship with them.  And I got along well with their mothers through the divorce and afterwards.  We are still friendly.

As the authors point out, there are some keys to mindful co-parenting that underlie doing so effectively.  I endorse the six they focus on.  They point toward developing a relatively stable mindset that will make the co-parenting process easier and more effective for all concerned.  A very brief summary is below.

Keys to Mindful Co-parenting

Putting the children first.  This means being committed to giving your children’s needs priority.  It doesn’t mean they always get what they want.  It means that their needs should be carefully taken into consideration in every situation.  We shouldn’t mistakenly assume we know what their needs are.  It’s important to consult with the children and to understand the basics of child development.  Do everything possible to insulate the children from co-parenting conflicts.

Focusing forward.  If you hold onto grievances from the marriage, you often seriously hinder your co-parenting.  Work on letting the past go, perhaps with a counselor or therapist.  Also, learn to let go of minor issues that arise as you co-parent.  Focus instead on the big objectives and concerns that really are important for the well-being of the children and the well-being of your co-parenting.

Communicating effectively.  This is often a tough one but it’s essential. You may no longer like your co-parent. But it’s important to communicate calmly and listen to each other about matters concerning the children.  Sometimes it’s best to limit your communication to the affairs of the children.  Your communication should be respectful and not demeaning of your co-parent.

Honoring agreements.  Once you have co-parenting agreements, they need to be honored.  This provides consistency for the children and it builds trust between the co-parents.  Even better, honor the intent of your agreements.  This will build respect and appreciation from your co-parent.

Maintaining boundaries.  Respect each other’s space, time, relationships, privacy and finances.  Each of you should be free from unwanted intrusion into areas of your life that are not directly related to being a co-parent.  Adhering to your co-parenting agreements helps keep these healthy boundaries in place.  Each of you will co-parent differently.  Each should have the freedom to do so as long as it is not clearly detrimental to the children.

Managing your emotions.  Coming up with ways to manage your emotions through a divorce is challenging.  But it’s very important for your co-parenting.  Consider counseling or therapy.  How you think about your relationship with your co-parent can help.  Think of yourselves as a team with the very important project of raising your children effectively.  Stay mindful that you are no longer emotionally connected.