Introduction to Successful coParenting
Separating and divorcing parents face two major tasks. One is more obvious and often receives the most attention: the legal task of establishing custody and residential schedule for children. The other, even though it doesn’t receive as much attention, is most important to the long-term outcome for both the children and for the coParents, and that is successful coParenting.
For example, residential schedules are important, but more important is how well coParents communicate and cooperate with each other. Many years of study and research tell us very clearly that successful coParenting is by far the best predictor of how children turn out and how much children and parents enjoyed the family experience after a separation.
All separated parents coParent; the only difference between different families is how well they do it. Some parents successfully coParent well and have children who are healthier, physically & emotionally; these parents also enjoy the process of parenting together. Some parents struggle with coParenting well together. These parents have children who have higher risks of many different types of problems. There are also parents who find the process of coParenting together frustrating, even hateful. This latter group of parents often is left out of huge portions of their children’s lives, feeling helpless and powerless to address concerns about the other home, living with inflexible schedules, missing out on wonderful opportunities, and finding their lives dominated by bitter disputes and enormous resentments.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates
Parents cannot avoid coParenting. They can only control how well they do it. Parents always communicate with each other. Parents who successfully coParent communicate directly and constructively. Parents who coParent poorly communicate through their children, nasty notes, or by withholding their children from scheduled activities, and so on.
It is not pie in the sky idealism that bitterly divorcing parents can coParent well. The statistics proove it: One-third of separating parents, after a sometimes bitter and conflict-filled divorce period, coParent very well, and another one-third do it moderately well. Successful coParenting as separated parents is not as complicated or as emotionally challenging as having a successful marriage.
It might be frightening to parents to start coParenting well at the time of a separation and divorce. The thought of communicating with the other parent when there is bitter frustration, blame, and resentment might seem overwhelming and horrible. However, starting to coParent well at the time of the separation and divorce has the best payout down the road. It is even harder to start later, and some damage to the children and to the parenting relationship might already have been done. The message is simple: avoid wasting time.