Sharing custody and figuring out how to co-parent is a full time job, even when both parents generally agree. It becomes exponentially more difficult if that’s not the case, especially when it comes to decisions that impact the health and well-being of the child—like deciding when, and even if, to vaccinate.
Controversy and confusion
Childhood vaccines, particularly the MMR (mumps, measles, and rubella) vaccine, have been a hot-button topic in recent years. It has been two decades since an infamous (and now retracted and discredited) study was released that linked vaccines to autism.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has dedicated resources to provide information to the public, particularly parents, about the safety and importance of vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even produced a video specifically designed to answer the questions and dispel concerns from real moms on the issue.
A large majority of Americans strongly support vaccines, particularly for school-aged children. In 2017, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that, overall, 88% of the respondents believed that the benefits outweighed the risks when considering mandated immunizations for school-aged kids. But those numbers change when talking about children ages birth to 4, where 43% of respondents felt that risks from the vaccines were medium to high.
Just the facts
So, what should you do when you and your child’s other parent disagree? For starters, do your research: be prepared to cite facts, not anecdotes, to support your perspective. You might also want to schedule an appointment where you and your counterpart can talk with your child’s pediatrician about the risks and benefits of routine immunizations.
Psychiatrist Mark R. Banschick, author of The Intelligent Divorce, told the Chicago Tribune that it is important for co-parents to have an honest discussion about fears and concerns with each other, and that active listening is a critical piece of the puzzle. As with any conflict in a co-parenting situation, open and honest communication is the best way to reach a compromise.
If you are considering a parenting plan or already have one, this is exactly the type of issue that should be included. Additionally, if circumstances change, that alteration should be negotiated into (or out of the plan.)