After the pain and complexity of divorce, couples with children are faced with a stage of their parenting journey that literally lasts forever: co-parenting.
Whether it’s realizing the importance of spending time together as a family even after divorce or fighting the temptation to compete for a child’s affection through expensive gifts, co-parenting is a complex relationship that is absolutely necessary to the well-being of any young child with divorced parents.
Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey’s marriage may be coming to an end, but the superstar couple has rightfully acknowledged the importance of remaining a family and spending the holidays together with their children.
Even in the midst of what InTouch Weekly claims will be a rough custody battle over their two adorable 3-year-old twins, Monroe and Morrocan, both of the stars agreed that they should still spend Thanksgiving and Christmas as a family.
It’s a mindset that is key for all divorcing parents.
As the old saying goes, you are divorcing your spouse, not your kids.
“Especially when children are very young, their interactions with both of their parents need to be regular and routine, and they need to be protected from exposure to parental conflict,” Dr. Edward Kurk, an Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of British Columbia, wrote for Psychology Today.
Dr. Kurk explains that when children are young, they are still forming bonds and growing attached to parents, so the divorce process should be mindful of this. Regardless of relationship issues, the children still need to feel like they are a part of a happy, whole family and continue to develop an attachment to both their mother and father.
Children who aren’t allowed to do so often develop “depression or anxiety” and may spend most of their time “yearning for the absent parent.”
Going through a divorce is an incredibly difficult thing to do, but when either parent reflects their frustrations with the former spouse on the children or encourages their children to see the other parent as a bad person, the results are usually disastrous. The child may come to feel as if the family is indeed a broken one, which can cause a “regression in behavior and general development,” Dr. Kurk wrote.
Meanwhile, Cannon and Carey have been subjected to backlash due to rumors that they only speak when the kids are involved, but the truth is that even this could be grounds for a co-parenting relationship.
It is not unusual for divorcing parents to make the mistake that it is mandatory for them to be best friends with their spouse after calling off the marriage. While a friendship would be ideal, it is not always the best option for some parents.
If there is tension existing between both parents that can spark serious feuds or arguments, especially with the children around, it is actually best for parents to keep communication limited unless it is about the children.
A series of “attachment” studies based on how children form bonds with parents suggest that the main focus should be making sure the children are not subjected to major changes as far as access to both parents and ensuring that they are not exposed to any actions or speech that would degrade the other parent.
Dr. Kurk also pointed out that while some studies have failed to find any substantial differences in development between a child who is raised by both parents and a child who is raised by one, these studies often omit a very important factor.
“The failure to recognize the depth of children’s attachments to both of their parents is the most significant omission, however, of attachment theorists and researchers who hold more traditional views about the parenting of infants and young children,” he added. “…Those families in which children are securely attached to two parents who have been integrally involved as caregivers since their children’s birth, co-parenting after divorce is vital to children’s well-being, and current attachment.”
While Cannon and Carey seem to be on the right track when it comes to co-parenting, many are concerned that Lil Wayne and his ex, Toya Wright, have fallen into the trap of competing for their daughter’s affection.
For Reginae Carter‘s sweet 16, she received not one but two expensive luxury cars: a red BMW SUV from her rapping father and a white and black Ferrari GTO from her reality star mother.
Even after breaking up, parents should still work closely together when it comes to giving gifts so that their child is not receiving an overabundance of parents, particularly if the parents are acting as if they are in a parental gift competition.
“Trying to be the parent who spends the most money on your children’s gifts can turn giving into a contest where each parent tries to outdo the other with lavish and not very useful gifts,” the authors of “Parents Forever: The Impact of Divorce on Children Parent Handbook” wrote. “This is no gift for your child — giving your child too much, too soon, that doesn’t meet their real needs, is a setup for overindulgence.”
While their teenage daughter seemed to be elated over both vehicles, if one parent surfaces as a favorite it could be a complicated development as she moves further into her teen years—a time when equal respect and admiration for both parents is essential.
The “Parents Forever” authors say that if parents decide to give separate gifts, they should ensure the gifts are two very different items that aren’t really comparable.
They also stressed the importance of making sure that neither of the parents criticizes the other gift or tries to prompt the child to pick which gift was their favorite.
Needless to say, the co-parenting journey is not likely to be smooth—but it can be made easier when the two sides keep the needs and development of the child as a top priority.