Barbara Rothberg, DSW, LCSW

Therapy, Coaching, Mediation and Parent Coordination


Creating a new post-divorce relationship

W hen parents separate and divorce, they end their marital relationship, but they do not end their parenting relationship. The focus changes. The business of parenting becomes the basis of the new partnership.

This is not an easy task. When a couple separate there is obviously a myriad of feelings.....hurt, anger, disappointment and often despair. But if there are children involved, it is important for parents to rise to the occasion and put aside their feelings towards one another. They have a joint task and that is to raise happy and healthy children together. Is that possible? I would say a resounding "yes!".

A good way to view the situation is that after divorce, parents are developing a new relationship with one another. This new relationship is one that involves dealing with their children, and that's it. It is a business partnership, one of raising the kids together. They no longer have to work to please one another or take care of one another. Ideally, parents can be kind and generous to each other, especially when it comes to children's schedules as they will find that can be mutually beneficial.

It is helpful to acknowledge that parents frequently have different styles, different ideas and different attitudes about their kids. And that's okay. Kids learn the differences that their parents have. Ideally, the differences aren't drastic and they agree on some basic child rearing principals. For example, getting homework done, going to bed at a reasonable time (which may be somewhat different with each parent), eating well, media time etc., but it's helpful to have general rules. Children are resilient and can deal with differences. One ten year old told me he never eats vegetables with his mom, but he has to eat vegetables when he's with his dad or else he gets really mad....and that's ok. But looking at the big picture, as children grow up, it doesn't make that much difference! 

A principal that is very helpful in co-parenting after divorce is to pick your battles with your ex. Because there is so much hurt and anger in a divorce, parents often take a little incident with a child and make it big. It can become a way to express anger. But the truth is, if a child eats a spoon full of peas or a few stalks of broccoli, or doesn't, it will not change his or her life. If these arguments can be avoided it will make a smoother realtionship. On the other hand, if you feel that your ex is doing something that feels unsafe or really unhealthy with your child, it is your responsibility to challenge what is happening. 

Another basic principal is to be kind. You do not have to like your ex, or be friends with your ex, but acknowledging that you're in the same business of co-parenting and that you have the same goals is helpful. If you can be civil and nice to one another in front of your kids, they will thrive. Remember, you chose this person to have a child with!

When parents focus on the business of child rearing and not on one another, they have good chance of being cooperative and raising great kids. It is a challenge, but it can be done.