Tips for successful co-parenting

In many of the communities in Michigan the S.M.I.L.E (Start Making It Livable for Everyone) is a program to assist parents in recognizing the needs of the children affected by divorce.

Researchers have found that children whose parents divorce are more likely to have emotional or behavioral problems than children whose parents remain married. Most of these problems seem to be related to conflict between the parents both before and after the divorce.

In many of the communities in Michigan, the S.M.I.L.E (Start Making It Livable for Everyone) is a program to assist parents in recognizing the needs of the children affected by divorce. In Branch County, the Michigan State University Extension office, Friend of Court and Circuit Court partner to offer the SMILE program. The goal of the SMILE program is to reduce conflict. Eventually, many parents are able to work together, but it takes time.

Tips for Successful Co-Parenting

  1. Remember that neither parent has control over the actions or activities of the other parent.
  2. Use common courtesy and be business-like in your dealings with the other parent.
  3. Do not plan activities for the children during the other parent’s time.
  4. If conflict occurs when you see the other parent, then work to avoid contact between parents.
    • Pick up and drop off at a central location-school, daycare, etc.
    • Keep basic toys and clothes at each home to avoid moving them from house to house.
    • Send notes, use e-mail, leave messages on answering machines, or have another person that both of you trust deliver the messages rather than speaking directly to each other, but NEVER use the children as a go between.
    • DO NOT send a note for every little thing. Wait until three or four messages have accumulated and then send out one note.
  5. If you are trying to cooperate but the other parent is angry and/or hostile, then cooperative parenting probably won’t work.
  6. When parents must make decisions together, ask a third party (relative, friends or mediator-not the children) to be the go between.
  7. Get all the information about a situation or problem before forming an opinion.
  8. Follow up on all agreements about vacations, medical appointments, school activities, time sharing, etc, in writing, to avoid problems. A detailed parenting plan will be helpful.
  9. When you are able to work together, you can be more flexible about schedules and rules. Remember, whatever decisions you make, think of what is best for the child.
  10. Don’t bring up old problems or hurts when talking about problems.
  11. Keep adult, divorce-related issues separate from child-related issues. Have separate discussions on each topic.

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