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Co-parenting: Tips From a Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Co-parenting refers to a parenting situation where adults share the duties of raising a child. This definition is seemingly straight forward, yet the reality of co-parenting is not that simple.

A child custody agreement is made for parents going through divorce. It is a type of written document outlining the guidelines for child custody between the parents of a child or children. Once the agreement is made, a parent is aware of the percentage of time they are entitled to their children each week.

parents holding hands of their little daughter while she is wearing a yellow jacket

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These guidelines are clearly written and easy to understand, however there is much more that goes into co-parenting and it is not all about the number of days or the percentage of time you have with your children. Linda Kaiser, LCSW, has seen it all in her profession as a marriage and family counselor and has helpful advice on how to positively co-parent. She can share her insights and knowledge as she has helped numerous families navigate their child custody agreements.

“At face value a custody agreement seems manageable, however the devil is in the details,” she said. “There are many obstacles to making this work for parents and most importantly the children.”

One of the issues that frequently arises is the appropriateness of attending the child’s activities during the other parent’s time. It seems easy to be agreeable and allow the other parent to show up and be present for the child, but there are caveats to this. Kaiser said it is vital that both parents can behave and act appropriately in each other’s presence.

“Divorce brings out powerful feelings to do with abandonment and betrayal, especially in the early stages, said Kaiser. “It may be tempting to act these out at inappropriate times.”

In her experience, a child’s sporting event is often a common space where both parents will show up to ultimately be there for their child’s over all wellbeing. However, she has found this to also be damaging to the child, as some parents cannot help but to do subtle things like glaring at the other parent or making snide comments. She cannot express enough the importance of refraining from this poor behavior. It is not beneficial for the child if it is going to be negative.

Although, if parents can be around each other and make it an enjoyable experience, that is all the better. She advises keeping the conversation light and avoiding topics of child support, parenting agreements, etc.…

If you can attend an event and focus on the meaning this has for your child solely, it can be positive for all involved.  If it is not your allotted time with your child, make your departure quick and allow the other parent their time.

“Of course, if you are all able to have a friendly chat about the game (and nothing else) more power to you,” Kaiser said.

Co-parenting is like building a muscle, you have work on it daily. Make sure to be aware of what you are doing well and what needs work. What are your tips for co-parenting and what are your biggest obstacles? You are not alone in this and it is helpful to share your experience, we would love to hear from you.

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