Research confirms the accuracy of these poignant lyrics—even for newborns. Here are three commitments separated parents can make to best support the physical and emotional health of their new pride and joy.
1. Commit to reducing conflict and creating a low-stress environment.
Infants sense conflict. Newborns exposed to conflict between their parents—even during sleep time—show physical signs similar to people with severe stress and emotional problems, including sleep disturbances, fear, anxiety, and distress. It can even disrupt early brain development. Continued exposure can lead to emotional, behavioral, and physical health problems later in childhood. Infants suffer internally and may not show signs of stress.
For years, child experts have known that it is not the divorce that will cause harm—it is continued conflict during and after divorce that causes emotional harm. This truth can help co-parents separate their conflict from their co-parenting responsibilities.
Creative solution: Become a team focused solely on your baby. Use your baby’s name as your ‘team name’. Knowing you are both on “Team [your baby’s name]” can go a long way toward uniting as parents and reducing conflict.
2. Commit to supporting each other.
Babies need both parents. Developing secure attachments to both parents is in an infant’s best interest. Leading psychologist Dr. Richard Warshak’s research concludes that parents’ consistent, frequent, affectionate, and sensitive behavior is essential to forming meaningful, secure, and healthy parent-child relationships.
Likewise, Arizona law calls for “substantial, frequent, meaningful, and continuing parenting time with both parents.” Parents can commit to maximizing parenting time for both parents. For some, this means the baby resides at one parent’s home full-time, while the other parent cares for their baby multiple times per week. Other parents who are equally invested in caregiving can share overnights. The key is to support one another as you work together to make a plan that best meets your baby’s needs.
3. Commit to creating a Parenting Plan.
All new parents need guidance. A detailed Parenting Plan is your vital playbook. A professional family mediator can help you develop a Parenting Plan, which addresses parenting time, legal-decision making, and child support to keep conflict low and ensure successful co-parenting now and long into the future.
Courageous Co-Parenting is Raising Arizona Kids’s monthly column for separating or divorced parents to learn conflict resolution skills, strategies, and attitudes for healthy co-parenting. These concepts apply to all parents. Please feel free to share the column with your co-parent.
Michael Aurit, JD, MDR, is a Professional Mediator and Co-Founder of The Aurit Center for Divorce Mediation in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is President of The Academy of Professional Family Mediators. He is also an Adjunct Professor at The Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law and Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law. Michael is married to Karen Aurit, and they live in Phoenix, Arizona with their three and five-year-old daughters. Michael can be reached at email@example.com. To learn more, visit auritmediation.com