Attention military parents: Co-parenting after divorce

Divorce often means big changes for a military family. When kids are involved, it’s essential to put their needs first and help them feel secure.

Children are less likely to feel stigmatized or “labeled” by their parents’ breakup since divorce is more common and acceptable today. Still, the changes that go along with it often result in some stress and pain for a family. Children might experience sadness, worry, regret, and longing for the family to remain intact. After learning that their parents plan to divorce, most kids go through some short-term behavioral or emotional issues too. However, most adjust well to their new family structure and tend to improve their behavior over the long term.

Help kids adjust

The way your children adjust during and after a divorce is largely related to how divorcing parents handle themselves. Since divorce is already stressful, you need to avoid adding even more stress to your child’s life. Minimize the amount of conflict with your ex throughout the divorce process too. And don’t let anger towards your spouse interfere with addressing your child’s emotional needs. Divorce often results in changes to your child’s daily life. Kids need your empathy about what it’s like to experience such changes. Don’t let negative feelings about your ex affect your relationship with your child—or your child’s relationship with their other parent.

While going through a divorce, you’ll also need to focus on how you’ll co-parent in joint-custody arrangements. In a collaborative, co-parenting arrangement, you’ll continue to share responsibility—providing emotional, physical, and financial support—for your children. As collaborative co-parents, you’ll need to respect the role of the other parent in your children’s lives. So you need to trust your ex as a parent. While it doesn’t mean you have to be friends, it does mean you have to be respectful. This post-divorce parenting approach helps put your children’s needs before your own.

Effective co-parenting

Co-parenting means recognizing that you both have good parenting skills and traits. It isn’t a competition of who can be a “better parent.” Instead, the aim is to continue sharing the responsibilities of raising your children and putting their needs first.

  • Avoid bad-mouthing your ex in front of your child.
  • Support your child’s relationship with their other parent and help them stay connected.
  • Keep referring to the other parent as “mom” or “dad” to show respect for your ex.
  • Don’t undermine the other parent’s authority.
  • Attend your child’s events even when your ex is present.
  • Let your child speak for themself.
  • Don’t ask your child to spy on your ex.

Put children first

Divorce is a big adjustment for all couples, especially those with children. Work hard to prioritize your children’s needs throughout the divorce process. And establish an effective, respectful co-parenting relationship with your ex. Doing so will help ensure your kids adjust well.

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Rappaport, S. R. (2013). Deconstructing the Impact of Divorce on Children. Family Law Quarterly, 47(3), 353–377.

Karph, M. K., & Shatz, I. M. (n.d.). The divorce is over - What about the kids? American Journal of Family Law.

Johns, M. (2016). High conflict families: Healing the hostility, revenge, manipulation, and parental alienation Conference in College Park, MD. May 11 2016.