Divorce or separation is very emotionally difficult for children. They often struggle with fear over their parents splitting up, wondering if something they did helped spur the divorce or separation. Children also face a tough adjustment once they have to spend time with their parents separately, often adjusting to visiting Dad or Mom at a new residence and not spending time with them every day.

The benefits of a strong coparenting relationship

Parents who put their children first realize that having a strong, healthy coparenting relationship with their ex can benefit their children’s mental health during this transition. Research has shown that noted that parents who establish a positive coparenting relationship raise children who have a more easygoing temperament.

If coparents can show the following qualities in their relationship, their children are more likely to avoid mental health struggles:

  • supportiveness
  • solidarity
  • empathy
  • warmth

Learning to avoid conflict with an ex in a coparenting relationship also has been effective in reducing children’s anxiety and depression after divorce.

How to develop a positive coparenting relationship

After a divorce or separation, parents have their own emotional issues to work through. But if you want to protect your children’s mental health, you need to separate that out of your relationship with them. You should work on the following to create a positive coparenting relationship with your ex:

  1. Establish and write down your house rules and encourage your ex to do the same.
  2. Choose what values are most important to you to pass on to your children and don’t belittle the values your ex has chosen.
  3. Choose your parent-to-parent communication style. You may feel more comfortable communicating about your child’s schedule and needs via email or text at first, to lower the chances of charged emotions leading to a conflict.
  4. Develop your own support network. Because you want to avoid speaking negatively about you ex in front of your child, having your own support network is important. You may want to see a counselor to process your own feelings and meet regularly with close friends and family when you need to vent or seek encouragement.
  5. Encourage your child to keep their relationship with their other parent and extended family members strong. Only if your child’s safety is in danger, or your ex’s household is unusually cruel or harsh, should you think about limiting your child’s time with their other parent.

Establishing a strong, healthy coparenting relationship will take time. You may make mistakes now and then. But you need to keep working at it – so your child will benefit in the long term and avoid any mental health issues.

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