There is no one magic formula for successful co-parenting after divorce. There are guidelines that help parents.
1. Show respect for the other parent. You once loved this person enough to make at least once child together. No, the other parent is not perfect. Neither are you. Together you probably compliment each other as parents. Looks for the strengths in the other parent and then respect what that parent brings to the monumental job of raising your child.
2. Being present for your children; both physically and emotionally. It is important to spend enough time with your children to develop and sustain healthy relationships. But it is more than having time. You need to be emotionally present with your children. Spending a weekend watching television or playing video games at your home does not build sustainable relationships with your children. If being emotionally there for your children over long periods of time is not your strength, then admit it. Assuming the other parent can be emotionally more present, yield time to that spouse.
3. Having 50/50 parenting time is not validation that you are a good parent. Being actively involved with your children when they are with you is validation. Having happy children whose needs are being met through the cooperative efforts of both parents, regardless of the relative amount of time each parent spends with their children, is validation.
4. Talk with the children about the divorce. This does not mean that you share the process or the adult reasons for the divorce. It means that your children know that they will not be abandoned; emotionally or physically, by either parent. Create an environment where the children are safe expressing their fears and doubts. Reassure them that divorce is a process and that you will both be there as parents for them. Also stress that it is not their fault that mom and dad are divorcing; even though at times Dad or Mom became frustrated with them. Try to explain that the love that adults feel for each other is different than the love that parents feel for their children. You will never stop loving them.
5. Let them be children. Do not talk with the children about adult problems. Do not tell them about the affair or other wrong doing by the other parent. They are not your friends. Do not confide in them your anger, feelings of betrayal or fear. They need your reassurance that they will get through this.
6. Maintain direct communication with the other parent. Do not use the children as messengers. Also, do not have the children act as intermediaries. For example, asking the child to call the other parent and request more time with you, places that child in a terrible position. If communication by phone or email is difficult, try Our Family Wizard (www.ourfamilywizard.com) which is a multi-purpose software, that allows you to coordinate calendars, share information, keep track of information that both parents need to know.
7. Maintain your child's support systems. As much as possible, try to keep the child in the same school system, in touch with his friends, and her activities. This provides the child with a sense of security, trust, predictability and continuity.
8. Explore support systems for the children and you. There are parenting groups and children's groups after divorce that lend support to the family. Look at programs provided by schools, social service agencies and churches.
9. Maintain your own health. Taking care of yourself so that you have the strength and energy to make the transitions of divorce and care for your children is essential.
The single greatest predictor of how well your children will do post divorce is the level of conflict between you and the other parent. High conflict relations mean that your children will probably be troubled as adults. Low conflict relationships mean that your children will grow up to be as healthy as young adults as children whose parents did not divorce. Work hard at keeping the conflict low.