Joint custody can work if parents agree to cooperate

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BATON ROUGE, La. – According to Raye Neely, an LSU AgCenter family development expert, to make joint custody work, each parent must work hard at putting the interest of the children first.

“Any divorced parent can tell you that co-parenting divorce is a very challenging task, to say the least.”

Often, parents have the desire to sever all ties to their ex-spouse, but it is vital that parents develop a cooperative, respectful environment in which they raise their children.

Co-parenting after divorce can work, according to Neely, but parents must develop strategies for successfully negotiating issues, such as guidance and discipline, respecting each other, keeping children out of the middle, participating in children’s lives, gift giving and school issues.

Enforcing the rules.

After divorce, parents can become stricter or more lenient. Sometimes parents feel that the other parent allows the children too much freedom or lets them get away with everything.

To “correct” the problem, they attempt to enforce discipline across both homes. On the other hand, many parents do not want to spend the limited time they have with their children punishing them.

“It is difficult for children when their parents have drastically different rules and expectations,” Neely said. ” Parents should keep their expectations similar to what they were before the divorce.

“If this can be done, it will help to give the children a sense of security and stability, which is essential after the breakup of the family.”

Parents should discuss discipline issues to see if there is the opportunity for consistency across households. Usually, parents have different ideas about bedtimes, chores and homework.

If parents cannot agree on guidelines, they need to agree to disagree. It is vital that parents set clear expectations for the children at each home and explain to them in specific terms what is expected.

Also, explain to the children that mom has certain rules at her house, and dad has certain rules at his house.

No negative talk.

Parents put down each other for a number of reasons, such as fear of losing the child to the other parent or anger left over from the relationship.

“Parents should never put the other parent down in front of the children, nor should they allow family or friends to do so,” Neely stresses.

“I can’t emphasize this enough. It could negatively affect the children’s relationship with both parents.”

Both parents should try to attend their children’s activities, even if it’s not that parent’s day with them.

Parents should strive to put aside anger and resentment to celebrate important events with their children.

“Remember, we want the best for the children,” Neely reminds parents.

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