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It's not always easy to make the right decisions regarding your kids.  Being separated or divorced from your child's co-parent can present a great deal of tension and stress over many issues that face today's parents. 

Things change and so do your kids

Not only are your kids constantly changing, growing, learning, but now they have two households with two sets of rules and expectations.  While many co-parents do a great job of conferring with each other to maintain consistency, it's common for certain inconsistencies to evolve.  More over, most problems arise due to differences in parenting style developed following divorce.

How do you parent?

A nuclear family

Parenting style can be based on many factors.  A lot of it is affected by your family dynamic.  How you and your spouse interact with one another, how you each interact with your children and how your children interact with each other.  The more your family interacts with one another, it's common for both parents to share a mutual parenting style, consistent rules and expectations.  

A non-nuclear family

When a marriage begins to fall apart, it isn't uncommon for parenting to suffer.  As the separation and divorce begin to unfold the entire family is in crisis mode.  Eventually, both parents secure separate households with separate family dynamics begin to emerge.  What is okay at dad's home may not be okay at mom's. 

Changing parenting style

Sometimes, the former mutual parenting style was based on one parent's methodology.  Once the other parent develops more independence his/her method and style may differ a great deal from the former.  This may be difficult for one or both parents and certainly will have an affect on the children.

Co-parenting

While there may be differences in parenting style , the general expectations should be agreed upon by the co-parents.  Not only does this provide a stable and consistent foundation your children can rely upon and expect, but it ensures the children that while both parents are no longer married, their dedication and love for their children will remain everlasting.  

Kids are smart, be smarter

Being divorced should not allow your children the opportunity to seek different rules, expectations or guidelines.   A strong co-parenting relationship reduces the occurrence of children unintentionally, though rather opportunistically using their parent's poor communication and a conflicting parenting style in an effort to get what they want or have fewer restrictions.  If you don't want your kids to divide and conquer, it's time to get serious about effective co-parenting.

Put it in writing

If you have a co-parent for whom you are unable to communicate verbally, it would best to agree to discuss everything via e-mail.   Keep it casual, but keep it documented.  It will provide a consistent paper trail of agreements or disagreements for both of you to refer for future parenting plans or if a mediator is necessary.

Accept what you can not change 

If you are unable to agree with your former spouse about a discipline or rule, you will need to either attempt to compromise or be satisfied that what you expect for your children will be implemented only in one household. 

Expect on many occasions to agree to disagree on some issues.  It's going to happen.  The longer both parents maintain effective communication, reliable efforts and on-going interaction with their children, there will be fewer disagreements and co-parenting blunders.

Here are some ideas on how to avoid some common blunders and what to do if you can't:

Blunder ONE

Problem

Dad buys his 8 year old her own cell phone so that she can call him anytime.  However, you do not agree and tell her she is not allowed to use the phone at your home.  She is welcome to use the home phone to call her dad.  Dad then tells you he will not pay for your cell phone during the separation, which he formerly agreed to pay, as detailed in the court ordered separation agreement, if you take her new phone away.  You can not afford a new cell phone.

Possible solution

You can tell dad that you do not agree with her having a phone at 8 years old and that you will compromise for her to have access thru you to use the phone when she wants to call her dad, but that she is not allowed to keep the phone herself.  You expect him to follow the separation agreement and prefer to work with him directly to avoid legal expenses regarding his failure to comply with the established agreement.  Remember, it's not always who is right or wrong, rather how to resolve the problem for the least amount of time, money and family disruptions.

If he is still not satisfied and you feel very strong about your decision, you can discontinue with your phone until you can afford a new phone.  Only you can determine if sacrificing a cell phone for a few months may be worth maintaining your parenting beliefs for the best interest of your child.  Let him know this means you will be less available for arranging visitation or other issues that may arise.  First, it may be helpful to explain to him why you feel so strongly the way you do and that you understand his wanting to give his child the opportunity to reach him anytime.  Assure him you will not restrict such opportunities in any way without the child owning a cell phone. 

WARNING

Obviously, you have the option to get your attorney involved based on his threat to fail to comply with the court ordered separation agreement, but the legal cost to do so may outweigh the value of his paying for your phone.  It's a good idea to consult with your attorney, but make sure you understand the his/her schedule of fees associated with challenging your spouse on this issue.

While the opportunity to be a shrewd enforcer of the separation agreement is tempting, know that this is a common way for a 12 month divorce to take years to resolve, end-up in court and cost thousands more.  If your spouse plays dirty with the separation agreement (like not honoring the payment of your phone bill), it may be better to let the phone issue slide, then confer with your attorney to see if it may be best to request a one-time settlement in place of on-going support when negotiating the actual divorce settlement.  

Otherwise, disputes like this one can quickly escalate based on "who is right and wrong" rather than the path of least resistance.  Clearly there is a "wrong" here (maybe several wrongs), but sometimes if the situation in question is a manageable loss, accept it, learn from it and move-one, thankful you are distancing yourself from the person who has taken such advantage.  But, only you can decide when to do so.  You may not give-in on everything, but somethings are worth the fight and some things are just "a fight" for which you and your former spouse end up paying.

Blunder TWO

Problem

Mom grounds her teenager (your daughter) for going out with a boy she doesn't trust, on a night the teen said she was going to the movies with friends.  Mom specifically grounds her on the weekend your daughter planned to go to a concert for which you bought tickets.  You refuse to ground her on that weekend.  However, it happens to be her weekend with the kids that you verbally switched with her for the concert. 

Mom is refusing to grant the switch now for the concert and you are out $300.  While you agree to a punishment, you feel that it can be carried out another way and that your co-parent is just doing this to be difficult.

Possible solution

First, let the situation cool down.  Let your co-parent know that you understand why she feels there needs to be a punishment and that you would like some time to think about how another punishment can be just as effective, but different.  Let her know you would like to get back to her in a few days to discuss.  It may be best to keep everything in an e-mail to allow for a calmer conversation that allows both of you to respond prudently.  Further express your commitment to your daughter and your co-parents decision to implement a punishment. 

If the situation does not resolve in your favor, remember it is a lost battle, but you are not at war.  So, keep the doorway to peace open at all times.  Hopefully this will allow your former spouse the willingness to mirror your cooperation and co-parenting style through your example.  It isn't uncommon for stubborn people to always be stubborn.  But, sometimes when tensions are strong, it's best to relieve the tension on your side, since that is truly the only side you control.  At least you will not bare the burden of failed diplomacy plus the stress that you can deter.

Finally, if the concert never happens and you lose the money on the tickets, it's a good idea for your teenager to assume some of the loss on the tickets through extra chores or otherwise as part of the total punishment.  It shows her how to take responsibility for her poor decision making, as it affects more than just her, more than just that night and consequently results in more than just a single punishment.

Blunder THREE

Problem

Your ten year old is struggling with bad behavior and grades in school.  The school has called you and your co-parent for meetings and has recommended your child be seen by a professional regarding possible treatments for behavior that is associated with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).  Your co-parent is completely against the idea of your child being medicated and is no longer co-operating with the school or you to deal with the problem.  The school is putting added pressure on you to deal with the situation.

Possible solution

Ask your former spouse for a meeting in person.  Come prepared with some basic information related to ADHD, reputable sources of information related to treatment, alternative therapy and school information including recent grades and infractions.  Discuss with her the options and your opinion as to what should be done.  Let him/her know you are committed to taking the lead to resolve the situation, if necessary. 

Discuss the options to proceed to the family pediatrician, counselor or therapist trained in ADHD, alternative practitioners and ask which she would like to have your child see to confirm the diagnosis or dispel it.  Let her know if you would consider alternative methods of treatment if recommended by the licensed professional.  Once the selection is made, make sure you tell your co-parent that you wish for her to attend to ensure she is involved in your child's treatment as recommended by the practitioner.  

If she is still unwilling to allow your child to be treated by a professional then it may be time to request that you both either attend some type of counseling together to assist in the decision to treat the child and/or a mediation service or court appointed mediator to assist in making the decision for your child to receive treatment. 

It's best to have the school involved in this process by providing written documentation regarding issues and recommendations for treatment. You can call the intermediary and request the documentation that they would like you to provide during your appointments to speed up the process so that your child's treatment can be expedited in the event the mediator sides with the option for treatment.


While there are numerous possibilities of situations that will come about while co-parenting, know that the longer you are divorced - tensions lessen and you both become more objective and comfortable in your decision making.  You also be more experienced parents.

While your circumstances may differ from these examples, at the heart of each example is cooperation for the overall good of family.

Try to remain calm and keep your children as the priority in your new co-parenting relationship.  This is not always easy and you will likely have numerous occasions that may cause a rift in your co-parenting success. 

It's best to let the issues remain singular and not to carry one issue into another in order to "make a point" or hold a grudge with your former spouse.  Don't let problems associated with your former marriage or your former spouse's current decisions, choice in relationships or personality quips affect your willingness to make your co-parenting relationship a positive experience, unless these issues seriously affect the well-being of your child. 

-OurDMK.com



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