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Linda D. States

Co-parenting challenges and strategies to reduce conflict

A licensed mental health counselor has developed guidelines to help divorcing parents in California help their children during and after the process. Her advice focuses on creating environments that benefit the children and avoid conflict and divisiveness between the parents. When parents get divorced, they should accept that the children need relationships with both of them unless safety is an issue.

Working from that starting point, co-parents could develop consistent rules between their households so that children experience stable expectations about behavior. When people with different views about parenting find this task challenging, they should focus on basic standards. The establishment of largely similar rules at both homes could prevent parental arguments about how to discipline children.

To overcome forgetfulness about custodial schedules, parents could place 12-month calendars in their homes that show important dates and times, like vacations or holidays. A calendar might help all parties avoid scheduling conflicts. For day-to-day communications, the mental health counselor recommended that people correspond in writing instead of verbally. Text messages, emails or online messages create concrete records about children's needs and scheduling adjustments. Written communications also reduce the likelihood of emotional exchanges, which could escalate during face-to-face or telephone conversations.

When ending a relationship, a parent might want the representation of an attorney when negotiating custodial schedules or communication protocols. These elements can be written into the terms of the final child custody agreement. To broker compromises, an attorney could suggest approaches that have worked for other families. With legal support, a person might limit emotional confrontations with the other parent. Information about parental rights provided by an attorney might enable a person to focus on achieving a fair custody schedule that fulfills the best interests of the children.

Source: Psych Central, "10 Essentials of Co-Parenting After a Divorce", Christine Hammond, July 6, 2018

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