This is often a challenging concept for many separated and divorced couples. Research studies suggest that separation and divorce are not necessarily damaging to children, but it is the process by which parents separate that is potentially problematic. Specifically, parents who engage in continued and unrelenting conflict throughout the divorce and post-divorce process may be unwittingly placing their children at risk for adjustment difficulties that may persist into adulthood. Learning to clearly separate marital anger from parenting responsibilities helps children comfortably negotiate the transition between two households.
Similarly, divorcing parents are also faced with the transition from marriage to divorce, and it is helpful for parents to co-create rules and boundaries that will address their changing relationship. If the new rules and boundaries are very child-focused and future-oriented, parents may better recognize and respect that they each have an important role to play in the care and development of their children. It is not important for ex-spouses to like one another, but they need to learn to respect each other as co-parents. This collaborative status is achieved when parents make a commitment to prioritize their children’s needs over their own and develop new strategies for conflict resolution.
Irene M. Schatz, Ph.D. is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator. She has conducted extensive research on post-divorce co-parenting relationships and, in her 25 years of clinical practice, has helped numerous couples negotiate the transition from conflict to collaboration.