It is not surprising that most separating and divorcing parents worry about the impact of divorce on their children. After all, professionals writing about divorce too often reinforce parental fears by recounting, even exacerbating the negative consequences of divorce. Yet interestingly, if you read between the lines and in the footnotes of these doomsayers’ prognostications, you will note that in families where parents are committed to working together, as parents, children do just fine.
A collaborative model for parenting after separation and divorce requires communication between parents that many would prefer to avoid. It is undeniably more difficult to make decisions together than alone. However, despite a parent’s desire to avoid interaction, the simple truth is that you and your children will benefit immeasurably from the cooperation and participation of both parents.
What, you ask, does this “collaborative model” mean? What does it require me to do? The answer is not as straightforward as is the question. There is no right or wrong answer. What is clear is that the model means that both parents need to function much like a couple or a team when it comes to parenting. However, it is also clear that no two couples work together in the same way or enact their version of collaboration in the same manner. Let’s consider some areas where co-parenting can be the primary objective.
Central to the collaborative model is the planning of a schedule for holidays, vacations, and special events. Most parents find that advance scheduling with definitive terms for how holidays and vacations are to be shared is preferable and easiest to manage. If, for example, you know that the children will not be with you on Thanksgiving, you can make plans for the holiday so that you will not be alone. Conversely if you are the holiday parent, you will want to make plans for the celebration with the children.
Holiday and vacation planning takes many forms. Some parents share the holidays even after divorce. Others alternate years and still others divide up holiday and/or vacation time such that the schedule is the same in very year. The incorporation of family traditions may determine the nature of parental planning. For example, if the family has always gone to Florida on Christmas to be with one parent’s family, the tradition may be continued with other considerations given to the other parent.
Collaboration is not limited to the four areas detailed above. Many more examples can be envisioned. Yet the central focus remains the same—parents who are able to share in their children’s lives in a positive and constructive manner will find that they have a true partner is this very challenging role of parenting. And, of course, children who can count on their parents, whether married or divorced, have an advantage in this very challenging role of growing up.
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