Couples and Marriage Counseling, Parenting

Divorce & Children: Why Co-Parenting is Important

“Co-parenting. It’s not a competition between two homes. It’s a collaboration of parents doing what is best for the kids.” – Heather Hetchler

A child being pulled by both parents opposite ways in divorce

Divorce Today

It is not uncommon these days to be a first hand witness to divorce. Whether it is your divorce, your parents divorce, or a friend’s divorce, it is widely known and accepted as the way in which many relationships succumb today. In fact, about 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. According to McKinley Irvin Family Law, when looked at more closely, the breakdown of marriages ending in divorce are as follows:

  • 41 percent of first marriages end in divorce
  • 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce
  • 73 percent of third marriages end in divorce

Due to the reality we live in when it comes to relationships and the termination of relationships, it is hard to understand why people would continue to seek out marriage. Couples who decide to end their marriages usually hope for both a simple and smooth process in order to move on with their lives and their future. However this is not necessarily the case, especially if children are involved. One of the biggest reasons couples must continue to communicate post divorce is for the sake of their children.

Divorce & Children 

One of the most heart wrenching aspects of divorce is the concern for the children of the couple. When children are involved, the focus of a divorce can quickly turn to the well-being, both physically and mentally of the children. According to children-and-divorce.com, 

“50% of all North-American children will witness the divorce of their parents. Almost half of them will also see the breakup of a parent’s second marriage.”

This proves that it is evident that when an adult gets divorced, it is highly likely that it will happen again. This repetitive experience can and will impact a child’s view of marriage, relationships, trust, mental health, physical health, and social experiences.

It has also been studied and proven that: 

“Children from divorced homes have more psychological problems, than children from which one of the parents has died.” (Robert E. Emery,- Marriage, Divorce and Children’s Adjustment- Sage Publications, 1988).

Based on this research, it is essential that parents of children who have gone through a breakup or divorce need to develop a healthy and effective communication style in which they can continue to jointly raise their children. This is made possible by what is known as co-parenting.

What is Co-Parenting?

Co-parenting is the way in which divorced parents who have children together are able to raise their children together in an agreeable and cohesive manner. Furthermore, the parents must put aside their differences and sustain open communication regarding important decisions for the well-being of their children. A few examples of the types of joint decisions they might make together for their children include:

  • Educational decisions
  • Transportation to and from school and activities
  • Medical decisions
  • How and when the children will split their time between the parents
  • Time spent on social media, video gaming, and the use of technology
Children looking stressed while parents argue

The Importance of Co-Parenting

The ability to co-parent is not as easy as it sounds. It can take both a lot of work and courage to try to maintain a relationship with your ex in order to create as much coherency and dedication towards decision making for the sake of your children. The health and well-being of your children should be the top priority both during and after a breakup. 

Benefits to the Children If You Do Co-Parent:

  • Cohesiveness in both home settings
  • Setting a good example for both parenting and communication, given the circumstances
  • Helps to maintain mental and physical health

Risks to the Children If You Do Not Co-Parent:

  • Mental health concerns
    • Anxiety
      • Worry, concern, and fear can invade a child’s life when their secure home setting is broken
      • This can affect many aspects in the child’s life, both in and out of the house
    • Eating disorders
      • Children, starting very young, can develop poor eating habits and eating disorders when they feel out of control of their changing home life
      • Controlling their food intake or simply not having an appetite due to low emotions can be a means of control
    • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
      • Like eating disorders, OCD is a means of finding control and order amidst chaos
    • Depression
      • According to the Huffington Post, “Children of divorced parents are seven times more likely to suffer from depression.”
    • Suicide
      • Children-and-divorce.com states that: “(Adult) children of divorce are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide than children from normal homes.” 
        • Velez-Cohen, – Suicidal Behavior and Ideation in a Community Sample of Children -Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 1988

The Answer: Co-Parenting Therapy

In order to avoid further damage to your children if you are going through a divorce, the best way to learn how to communicate openly and effectively with your ex is through the use of applying co-parenting techniques. But how do you get started? Attend co-parenting therapy with your ex. Although challenging to do, it is sure to benefit everyone involved, especially your children. 

A couple and a child in co-parenting therapy

By attending co-parenting therapy you will learn how to:

  • Communicate openly, honestly, and fairly
  • Listen to your ex’s concerns and opinions
  • Make joint decisions
  • Create cohesive home settings for the children 
    • Gives security to the children 
    • Grants peace of mind to both parents
  • Discuss openly the decisions and routines that will be implemented in your home

Remember that therapy is not always easy. Making the decision to go is the first and most important step. Once you can both commit to attending co-parenting therapy, you should both feel better knowing that this is what is best for your most prized possession: your children.

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