By Rayna Brachmann, Esq.
Every parent going through a divorce worries about the impact it will have on their children. And with good reason. Divorce is difficult for everyone in the family, and for the children of divorce, they are without control and the impact of the changing family dynamics can be magnified as a consequence. Every parent going through a divorce wishes to do what they can to minimize the impact and disruption on their children. Unfortunately, many parents, despite their best intentions, simply are unable to act consistently in their children’s best interests. Particularly when the divorce is ongoing and the dynamic between parents is negative.
One of the best things divorcing parents can do is work as hard as humanly possible to remain on the same page with the other parent, despite the divorce. When parents are able to present a united front to their children on parenting issues, despite their interpersonal differences, the impacts of divorce on their children are lessened. Not eliminated, but less damaging to their children. And because parents love their children enormously, this is a gift of love a divorcing parent can give to their children.
Concrete examples include reinforcing discipline in both homes. If a child loses a privilege in one home, the other parent should also restrict that privilege. If a child has lost the use of his phone in mom’s house for two weeks, the two weeks should be continuous, and dad should also restrict phone access on his custodial time. If dad has decided that a new driver is restricted from accessing the car because the child broke driving safety rules, mom should also ensure the child doesn’t drive during mom’s custodial time. This type of united front among parents with their children will make a child’s transition between homes easier and less jarring and will also prevent a child from seeing one parent as the hero while the other is the enforcer. This type of co-parenting requires a concerted, ongoing effort by both parents, which can be challenging. But it pays dividends over time and children will have less opportunity to play parents or households against one another. This is of particular significance as children becomes teenagers and test boundaries more as they try to define themselves in opposition to their parents. If parents remain on the same team as far as parenting goes, the children will be less likely to have opportunities to exploit the differences between their parents and will be better adjusted despite their parents’ divorce.