Coparenting Situations: Listen to Your Child
Cooperative parenting after a divorce, or for parents who were never married, can most certainly be a challenge. Moreover, it is a long-term situation that will not simply “work itself out” without serious effort and a commitment to your child’s best interests. Relationship and parenting experts will point to communication as the most important factor in any coparenting situation, and there is little argument with that perspective. However, most tend to focus on the communication between parents, while, in practice, it is just as vital to communicate effectively with your child as well.
Particular Challenges for Non-Custodial Parents
In most separated-parent family arrangements, one parent—usually the parent with primary physical custody—will spend more time with the child than the other. The other—or non-custodial—parent does not necessarily love his or her child any less; it is just the nature of the situation that limits time together.
Committed non-custodial parents will make every effort to make their children feel at home, rather than like an outside visitor, during their parenting time. This can be challenging, however, even for children who frequently go between parents’ homes, as favorite toys and books are likely to stay primarily in one place, inadvertently creating a preference in the child for that home, independent of his or feelings about each parent.
Hear What Your Child Says and Understand the Meaning
It is important to realize that children communicate differently than adults do. Children will express often express feelings in more absolute terms without comprehension of what may be causing them. For example, when your child tells you that she likes Mommy’s house better, it can be initially disconcerting and potentially hurtful. However, if you realize that she is actually trying to tell you that she has more toys and comforting belongings at her mother’s house, and therefore enjoys being there more, you can take steps to improve her experience in your home.
The best way to communicate with your child is to find the method that works best for your own situation. For some families, a quiet conversation on the couch works well. For others, a series of smaller discussions over several dinners together may work better. Any setting that allows for a two-way exchange of information can help you strengthen not only your relationship with your child, but also with the other parent as you become better informed.
If you have questions about child custody situations or legal concerns related to coparenting, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney. Our professional team is equipped to help you modify custody orders, seek increased visitation, and negotiate any other child-related matter. Call 630-232-9700 to schedule an appointment today.