Coparenting is hard, especially after divorce. It amazes me when I see parents actively choosing to behave in ways that negatively impact their children. Here are what I believe to be the most common coparenting mistakes that negatively affect children:
- Undermining each other’s authority by telling the children not to listen to their other parent, or by not supporting each other’s discipline decisions.
- Talking negatively to or about the other parent, or their family, friends, and significant others, in front of the children.
- Competing with the other parent, or their new significant other, for the children’s affections.
- Trying to replace your ex with your new spouse. DNA doesn’t go away.
- Refusing to allow contact with the other parent during your parenting time.
- Calling or texting the children too often during the other parent’s parenting time.
- Encouraging children to take sides between their parents.
- Speaking or acting in a manner to intentionally anger the other parent, commonly called “button pushing”. This is often done to set up the other parent so that they violate a court order.
- Hiding or not sharing information about school, doctor’s appointments, activities, sports, or other important issues to the child.
- Continuous communication with the ex. People often try to create reasons to speak to their ex. Cut off all personal communication that does not relate to the children.
Children usually love both of their parents and believe they are protecting them, loving them, and
providing for them, even when parents make mistakes. When someone, especially a parent, interferes with the parental relationship, the child is left feeling unprotected, unloved, or uncared for. Why would any parent intentionally cause their child such pain?
Children need both of their parents, sometimes one more than the other. This dynamic changes as a child’s needs change. The child seeks attention or assistance from the parent whom they have been taught is the parent who will fill their need. For instance, girls often want mom to do their hair for cheer competitions or want dad to walk them down the aisle at their wedding. The child’s understanding of parenting roles does not change merely because the parents chose to divorce. It takes time for the child to adjust to the new roles each parent will assume. When parents pressure their children, monopolize their activities, harass the other parent with constant emails, or encourage the child to love one parent more than the other, they are harming their child’s emotional and mental health. Often the parents then force their child to “tell the judge which parent they like the most”. The Court will never be able to “fix” their child after the parents have put their child through such. Parents that understand and accept that the child needs BOTH parents will have a much better chance of maintaining their child’s mental and emotional health. The added bonus is a harmonious coparenting relationship.