Colorado Department of Human Services
The Bawmann Group
June 25, 2008
Co-Parenting Brings Success to Colorado Families
Families should always strive to use co-parenting techniques to ensure a healthy and balanced familial environment. However, when separation and divorce become a reality, co-parenting and the dedication from both parents to remain active in their children’s lives becomes crucial. Colorado dads know the importance of being there for their kids and should make a commitment to do so no matter the circumstances.
Divorce doesn’t mean goodbye. It’s important to realize that separation from a spouse doesn’t have to mean the division of a family as a whole. Studies show that parents who divorce but make a commitment to cooperate as parents have a positive impact on their children’s lives.
The following are suggestions from Lois V. Nightingale, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of My Parents Still Love Me Even Though They're Getting Divorced, on how to help your child navigate a divorce.
1. BE HONEST. Don't lead your child to believe "Mom/Dad's away on business" or "everything is going to be wonderful". Children are very perceptive. They know if a parent is trying to hide something, even if the purpose is to spare their feelings. Children need simple, straightforward answers they can understand, that don’t place blame or make anyone the bad guy.
2. LET YOUR CHILD KNOW IT IS NOT THEIR FAULT. All children assume they may be responsible for their parents break-up. Children need to be gently reassured repeatedly over the first couple of years that the divorce is an adult decision having nothing to do with them or their behavior.
3. LISTEN QUIETLY. Children have many questions, feelings, assumptions and concerns about divorce. Many parents find it difficult to just sit quietly and listen to their children talk without trying to interrupt with a "fix-it" statement. Children need to feel that they are being listened to with quiet patience and undivided attention.
4. LET YOUR CHILD KNOW however they respond to the divorce is OK. Many children hide their feelings of sadness, grief, anger or confusion because they are afraid expressing these feelings will upset their parents. Children need to know all their feelings are acceptable.
5. LET YOUR CHILD KNOW IT IS NORMAL for them to want their parents to get back together again. Children can feel ashamed about this very normal wish. Explain to your child that after a divorce it is very unlikely that people ever get back together, but their wish for reconciliation is very normal.
6. REASSURE your child of personal safety. Many children are concerned that if their parents divorce there will not be enough food, shelter or clothing for them.
7. ASK YOUR CHILD about their friends whose parents are divorced. This is a good way to learn of your child's fears and assumptions about divorced parents. It also gives you the opportunity to clear up any misconceptions and remind them that other children have gone through what they are now going through.
8. DON'T put your child in the middle or try to make them take sides. Don't say anything about your ex in earshot of your child. Don't have your child carry messages to your ex. Children need to be able to love both parents. If one parent is disapproving of affection a child expresses toward the other parent, the child will begin to withdraw, become dishonest or depressed.
9. SPEND TIME with caring friends. Having a supportive network can protect your child from becoming your confidant and feeling responsible for your emotional well-being. It can also give you a higher frustration tolerance for the normal everyday things kids do.
10. READ a book on divorce for children together and then discuss. This will help you explain important facts to your child and help them formulate questions they might otherwise not have words for.
“As fathers we have to remember our children come first,” said Rich Batten, fatherhood specialist with the Colorado Department of Human Services. “Saying hurtful things or laying blame on the mother of your child might make you feel better, but it is inappropriate and puts your child in the middle of an argument they don’t deserve to be involved in. As a father, your goal is to lesson the negative impact of the separation or divorce and do everything you can to co-parent successfully.”
In October 2006, the Colorado Department of Human Services, Colorado Works Division was awarded a $10 million federal grant over five years to strengthen father/child relationships and improve parenting. Colorado is one of two locations nationwide, including Washington, D.C., to receive this federal community access grant. The Responsible Fatherhood Initiative distributes more than $1.1 million in community awards to state, community and faith based organizations to assist in providing direct services to fathers and families. Awards of up to $50,000 are distributed per program per fiscal year. For more information on a fatherhood program in your community, please visit www.coloradodads.org.