Divorce is difficult.  Oftentimes, mom and dad need to put aside contentious feelings to make sure their child still feels stable and secure.  News 8’s Connecticut Families is taking a two part look at how to co-parent in a positive way.

“There were other times when she wasn’t too happy with me but was still a good co-parent,” says Justin Michaels, of Burlington. 

He, and his ex-wife Chantel, divorced when their son, Remi, was a baby.

“It can be really stressful when you’re young, both in college,” says Justin.  “We owned a home, had a newborn.” 

Chantel adds: “It’s hard.  You have this little human being that loves both of you very much and it was hard enough to be split and share my time.”

At first, co-parenting was difficult as Justin and Chantel figured out their new relationship.  They worked hard – agreeing on one thing: the didn’t want Remi to feel like he was in the middle. 

“I come from a split family, so, I knew exactly what I didn’t want to do,” says Justin.

“Particularly when there’s a romantic relationship that’s broken up, that child becomes a symbol of the loss, a symbol of a lot of things,” says Ruth Freeman, a licensed clinical social worker and founder of Peace at Home Parenting Solutions, a team of educators and child development specialists that offer online classes. 

She says don’t make a child take sides. 

“In order for the child to develop positively, he has to have the opportunity to be close and attached to both parents,” she says. 

That means: don’t expose the child to conflict. 

“Kids who are distracted by parents’ fighting – or worried about mom or dad – and feeling like one parent might get hurt – they’re getting distracted from their developmental tasks,” Freeman explains.

For some kids, witnessing ugliness could have long lasting effects, impacting the child’s future relationships. 

“‘If my dad says my mom is terrible and I’m like her in some ways, that means there’s something wrong with me.’ There’s so many ways that this can be harmful,” she says.

“To this day, I don’t think he’s seen us argue much,” says Justin. 

He and Chantel believe communication and compromise are key as they continue to co-parent Remi, now ten. 

“It’s a really amazing dynamic that I’m very proud of,” says Justin.

Get more co-parenting tips Wednesday as we follow Justin and Chantel’s journey and find out what happened when they both re-married.

The full interview with Freeman of Peace At Home Parenting Solutions can be viewed below: