The Other Parent

When I was growing up, I don’t remember hearing much about divorce. I had one friend in high school whose parents were divorced, but it was never mentioned. Fast forward to years later and you guessed it – I married a divorced man with three young children. So I’ve had the first hand opportunity to see the “after divorce” world from both a personal and professional perspective.

The podcast started with the statement about divorce not being one point in time, but is ongoing. And I say, no truer words could be said. When children are involved, the divorce may end the marriage but the relationships and interactions continue literally for a lifetime.

If you’re a parent in the midst of a divorce, or are raising children after a divorce, how do you make it work? I latched on to the phrase – paths to healthy outcomes – and how there are two that work. Most everything else leads to negative outcomes. Those paths are divorced parents working together as warm co-parents or as professional co-parents.

Here’s my take on how professional co-parents work. The adults don’t’ have to be friends but their priority is to do what is best for the kids. They may not agree on how to raise their kids, but they manage to keep conflict under control. These parents try to share decisions and child rearing tasks. Although there is a custody agreement, the parents apply some flexibility and common sense. The professional co-parents see that both parents have a relationship with their kids.

As I look back, I realize our family functioned with professional co-parents (most of the time). No one will tell you it is an easy way to parent. However, the payoff for the kids is tremendous. The stress of the divorce is reduced; children have fewer long-term problems; and they can develop close relationships with both parents and extended family members.

Anyone want to share ideas that work for professional co-parents?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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