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Co-parenting traps divorcing dads need to avoid

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Are you divorcing or planning to divorce your child's other parent? While many of the unresolved differences you have will probably linger on for years, your priority should be helping your kids cope with the divorce.

To do this, work hard to minimize conflict between you and your ex for your child's sake. That means being supportive and avoiding so-called “loyalty traps.” Here's something that can help.

Identify potential co-parenting hazards

It is no longer standard operating procedure for Texas courts to award custody to the mother. However, fathers still face some obstacles. That's why it's essential always to put your child's needs first. Kids often get caught in the middle when parents:

1) Actively recruit a child to take their side in the divorce.

Your child loves both of you. Even if your ex cheated or exhibited other bad behavior, it's never appropriate to try to turn a child against them.

2) Share details about why the divorce happened.

If you’re struggling with your divorce, talk to a therapist or a close friend. Spare your kids the intimate details, and even if they ask, keep the explanation broad without demonizing your ex.

3) Use a child as a messenger.

If you aren’t on speaking terms with your co-parent, don’t use your child as a delivery service to pass along messages. If you don’t want to talk face-to-face or over the phone, communicate through texts, emails or a free parenting app.

4) Expect a child to relay details of an ex's life.

Children often feel like spies when you question them about their time with the other parent. They can even feel bad or guilty if they have fun. Instead, if they want to share details, let them. But avoid pointed questions and tell them you’re glad they had fun.

Leave the past behind and nurture your child's future

Regardless of the relationship you have with your ex, showing that you only have your child's best interests in mind will help you achieve the best parenting arrangement possible. But more importantly, it helps kids recover faster from divorce and dramatically reduces the potential for long-term emotional harm.

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