by Brette Sember
Here's What You'll Find Below: • Getting Your Child's Cooperation
• Children's Reactions by the Ages
• Kids Who Don't Want to Go on Visitation
• Kids Who Want a Change in Custody
• Children Overwhelmed by the Schedule
• Kids Taking Sides
• Manipulation by Your Child
Successful co-parenting means not only that the parents work together, but that the children cooperate with the process as well. All of you have to work together to help this new family structure work effectively. Helping your child adjust to your new situation takes time and patience.
When you talk to your child about the parenting arrangement, it is important that he first understand that kids do not get to make decisions about parenting. Allowing your child to think this gives him too much responsibility and blame. Instead, let your child know that your hope is that all of you can work together to make the new schedule comfortable. Your child's input is essential. If something isn't working or feels uncomfortable, you want him to speak up.
The message should be that you are all still a family and want to find a way to make the schedule work together. Your goal is to support each other and find a way to divide time that helps everyone in the family feel included. Your child doesn't get to make the schedule, but she has input in it. She doesn't get to choose where she lives, but again, her opinion is important to both parents.
It is also important to be clear that living with a parenting schedule isn't always easy. It takes effort to make it work. There will be times each of you will feel frustrated or upset, but that doesn't mean the whole plan should be tossed out the window. Instead, it means you all need to be patient with each other.
How children react to and adjust to parenting plans varies with their ages. Babies generally do quite well, as long as their personal schedule is closely kept to in both houses. Toddlers are also routine-oriented and a solid schedule will help them adjust. It's important to remember that toddlers are emotional creatures and behavior you might see as out of left field is in fact a normal condition of the age, and not at all a reaction to the parenting situation. Toddlers are learning to play off their parents' emotions, and can pick up on how you feel about a situation. If you can approach the situation in a calm and pleasant way, it will help your toddler.
Preschoolers are verbal and anxious to tell you exactly what they want. It is very important not to give into a preschooler's demands about the parent schedule. The schedule must be followed -- period. If you start caving and making changes based on what a four-year-old says, you will find your schedule in ruins.