When a marriage ends, one of the few things most spouses agree on is wanting the best future for their children. Research and common sense dictate that, most of the time, the healthiest situation for kids is having both parents involved in their lives.
Conversely, psychologists say conflict between parents is the most damaging thing for kids. But when ex-spouses don’t get along, the goal of minimizing that personal conflict while remaining a constant positive influence for their children can be tricky.
Two common forms of parenting after divorce
Divorced spouses often fall under two categories for fulfilling their parental responsibilities:
- Co-parenting: Former spouses who still get along or agree to discuss and make parenting decisions together make post-divorce life easier. They show each other respect, remain flexible and solve problems together. They may even attend family events together.
- Parallel parenting: Parents rarely talk to one another under this style and live in two parallel households. They may feel the need to remain independent of a former spouse, who may have been controlling or unfaithful. In these cases, the only way to minimize conflict may be to avoid the other parent.
Most parents typically fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes and must find a style that creates the most peaceful and positive environment for their children.
Ask yourself these questions to assess which style works best
Being optimistic about a future parenting relationship with an ex-spouse you no longer trust or respect may be noble, but being practical is best for everyone’s sake. To find whether you fit into a co-parenting or parallel relationship, answer these questions:
- How much contact can I tolerate with my ex-spouse?
- Is it possible to communicate with my ex without getting angry?
- What will it take to provide two peaceful homes for our children?
- How important is it to me and my ex to work together for the benefit of our kids?
Create a detailed parenting plan
Answering those questions honestly typically leads to the best outcome for your kids. Often, one parent may be better suited for co-parenting and other for a parallel relationship. However, if both parties aren’t that far apart, compromise is usually attainable.
One of the best ways to proceed is drafting a comprehensive parenting agreement that stipulates where your kids will spend holidays, birthdays and vacations. It should also outline how educational, medical and other decisions will be made. Flexibility is still possible for parents who get along, while a parenting plan provides a roadmap for those who want as little contact as possible.