Respect: An Integral Element of Co-Parenting

Basically co-parenting boils down to “cooperative parenting” or parenting together. It is a firmly held belief with professionals that children fare better when parents can minimize any trauma during and after their divorce and can communicate, cooperate, and compromise with consistency.

I realize not everyone ends their relationship amicably. It would be great for them and their children if that were possible, but unfortunately, it isn’t always. Co-parenting is even more difficult when a marriage ends with hostility. However, it is extremely important for your children that any animosity be put aside. You have to put your children’s needs and best interests ahead of your own hurt feelings, anger and bitterness.

How do you do this? Respect. You may not like the other parent very much at this time and may even be imagining all sorts of dastardly endings for him or her (hey…no one said you can’t imagine, just don’t do!), but this person is still a parent to your child. And your child loves them every bit as much as they love you. Right? Of course they do.

Because of that fact alone, you each deserve respect from the other. You each owe the other respect as the other half of a parenting team. If you can remember this is about your children and not what he or she did or didn’t do during your relationship, you will triumph. And most importantly your children will suffer the least amount of emotional harm.

Here are some ways to show your ex some respect and minimize stress in co-parenting:

  • Provide the other parent with any important information about your child: doctor appointments, medical issues, medications, school issues, report cards, emotional issues, etc.
  • Give the other parent enough time to make arrangements to attend appointments or events: doctor, parent-teacher, school programs, sports, dance or other extracurricular activities.
  • Make them a part of any major decisions. Give them all pertinent information. Get their input. Try to come up with a solution that you both can live with and that is best for your child.
  • Be flexible. Allow the other parent to have time not designated in the court order for special events. Switch access periods when asked if it won’t interfere with something you have planned. Allow for the unexpected or the special times. Remember: it’s not about you. It’s about your children.
  • When calling or emailing, focus on your child. Do not bring up past events. They are in the past and need to stay there. Rehashing them will do nothing but cause friction and more problems.
  • When at appointments or events, speak politely with your ex and any person(s) with them. Do not ignore them. Do not instruct your child to ignore them. In short, be respectful.

I know in some cases this will be very difficult. But I truly believe the more you practice this, the easier it will become for both parties. You may even find that you’re imagining less pain-filled scenarios.

For those of you that have been through this, what ways have you found to cope? What are some of your co-parenting suggestions? Do you find that by showing respect, you’re respected more in return?

*NOTE: Here’s my typical disclaimer for these posts–I am not an attorney. These opinions are mine alone and are based on my years of experience working within the family court system. They are not meant as legal advice nor as representative of anyone else’s opinion. If you need legal advice (and I believe if you’re involved in child custody litigation, you really do),  please consult with an attorney.

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The award-winning author of THE CONSUMING, and the zombie apocalypse series, SURVIVAL. She writes horror/sci-fi, paranormal, YA urban fantasy, suspense, and middle grade.

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9 Responses

  1. Patricia Yager Delagrange

    I haven’t been through a divorce but I concur with your suggestions. It is NOT about the parents. It’s about the parent-ING and the children’s best interests. I’ve seen how divorce can ruin kids’ lives and that is so sad. The kids love both parents and talking negatively about your spouse not only harms the kids but doesn’t make either parents better in the children’s eyes.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Patricia, thanks for stopping by and for your insightful comment. You’re so right. Negative talk not only hurts the child but makes the parent doing so look bad. Especially in the eyes of the court.

  2. Debora Dale

    I imagine even the strongest among us risks falling into that precarious pit of lashing out despite the needs of the children. Our hurt can run so deep that it would take work and constant focus to change that knee-jerk reaction. This is all such great advice, boiling it down to the most basic – it’s about the children.

    Great reminders. And great advice not just for divorced parents but for bickering couples as well. Step back and think about the kids. It’ll make everyone that much happier. It’s really so simple.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hi Debora! Thank you for stopping by and for the reminder that bickering parents need to keep it away from the kids as well. There are bound to be disagreements but those times need a good walk around the block without the kids.

  3. Christine Ashworth

    I feel though that kids should see arguments between their parents. I never saw my parents argue and thought when my husband and I first had arguments that there was something wrong with us.

    If kids can see their parents argue, and then bring the argument to a conclusion and move on, isn’t that healthy? Disagreements and arguments happen and it can’t be good to hide that fact from the kids. It certainly didn’t help me.

    Just my .02!

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hi Christine! Thanks for stopping by. I think healthy discussion is okay for kids to see. Arguments and worse are not. I guess it depends on how parents fight. There are some that manage it without a lot of drama. But, then there are those that yell, call names, use every swear word in the book. Some resort to physical contact. And a lot depends on the child. I’ve seen two children from the same family: one is perfectly fine and the other devastated by the fighting their parents did in front of them. How the child internalizes what they see and hear can affect them emotionally and physically.

  4. Catie Rhodes

    This was a great article. I don’t have kids, of course, so I’m not coming from any expert POV. I just think you have som great ideas.

    As for the kids should/shouldn’t see parents fighting. My parents argued–a lot. It was stressful. I never knew when a situation was going to blow up and a fun outing was going to be ruined. You know what’s funny? When I left home at 18, they got along better than ever! Maybe it was me!

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hi Catie! Thanks for stopping by and your kind words. I know I was stressed when my parents argued too. Not that they ever got out of control or anything. I was just a kid that worried a lot and so it was probably stressed me more than it would some. BTW..I sincerely doubt it was your fault your parents argued. More likely they just matured and had worked out the kinks by then. 🙂