For those of you who live in California, the 101 freeway is a major traffic artery running the north and south spine of California. When parents separate it's not uncommon for this to be the thoroughfare children traverse in order to see one parent or the other whether it's across town or a Los Angeles versus San Francisco commute.
One Turtlebird (the term I coined for children who move between their parents homes on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis) has the 101 icon tatooed on the inside of his left forearm to commemorate his time going back and forth between where he was born and where his father remains in Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles where he grew up with his mother.
With summer visitation upon us, when many of these migrations occur, I thought it would be useful to review thirteen primary principles of co-parenting - a baker's dozen if you like.
The following is outlined and so well articulated by Dr. Isaac Berman, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles who I have the privilege to consult with on a regular basis.
What follows are Dr. Berman's words outlining major considerations bearing on a co-parented child's continued optimal development.
Some of these dozen tips may sound elementary, so much so, these points are worth repeating. Please do not mistake simple with easy to pull off as this takes self-control, what is known as grace under pressure especially during transition times.
1.) Understand and Accept the Child: This may be the easy part; implementing them may be at times challenging:
2.) Ensure direct, calm, respectful communication: across households. You won't always see eye-to-eye.
3.) Cardinal Rule is: first accept, then disagree if you must.
4.) Talk about yourself: not the other.
5.) What you each need most (as does the child) --- and that is hardest to achieve --- is to feel understood.
6.) Post calendars: so that your child will always knows where he'll be and when. Keep schedules predictable and consistent.
7.) Observe the child at either end: (departure from Mom and return from Dad).
8.) Respect household boundaries: Ensure that transition times are peaceful and comfortable; establish rituals to facilitate movements back and forth.
The parent who has less time with the child, you will want to engage the child in some of the home activities he knows at the other parents home along with new ones Chez Vous. ( Tara's note: like washing the car is a good one if you are stymied for ideas.)
9.) Discipline-Upbringing: You'll set developmentally realistic behavioral expectations, then supervise the child's activities, always honoring his emotional autonomy. ("I know it's hard for you, but you have to....").
10.) Parenting should be Authoritative: loving and firm.
11.) Consistency and predictability: are key.
Authoritative style is important in another crucial sense in the development of a sense of control.
Youngsters cling to mothers' apron strings, largely for support and protection; they later engage more in the other developmental task: exploration and differentiation. Success in this latter task is crucial for the eventual development of a sense of control (as against vulnerability to anxiety).
Practically, this means:
12.) Learn to give the chlld opportunities to contingently control certain things by influencing your behavior; and
13.) Less intrusiveness and control on your part: Enable the child with more opportunities to explore and develop new skills to cope with new or unexpected events.
Dr. Berman's hope is the above will give you some idea of what to be aware of as you plan your co-parenting relationship, especially the considerations bearing on the child's needs.
Dr. Berman concludes with: "While this is a primer it contains the fundamentals for being child centered and focused on behavior and observation while learning to live with your child's commute between your different homes."
As Dr. Berman reminds me (and if you are like me, you may be a good talker), talking should not be confused with doing. Easier said than done, Dr. Berman. Thank you.