Co-parenting is no easy feat for anyone involved.
Unless a parent has struggled with domestic violence or substance abuse, co-parenting is essential for your child’s needs to get met. Positive co-parenting also encourages them to build a strong relationship with each parent, which improves their mental health. And while joint custody arrangements may exhaustingly stressful at times, the following tips can help you stay level-headed while also giving your child a solid foundation to flourish from.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
This is the number one rule for a reason: many relationships fall apart due to not communicating. When it comes to co-parenting, you can’t help but involve that relationship back into your life in some capacity. And when it comes to your kids, this is an area both parents need to get comfortable in. Whether it is by phone, email or speaking face to face, when divorced parents communicate — it can save a lot of time, energy and heartbreak. Oh, and never communicate through your child. This will hurt all parties and dissolve trust on all fronts.
Stay On A Consistent Schedule
Children of all ages thrive on consistency and get anxious when things do not go according to plan. This can prove a challenge for co-parents but can be alleviated by addressing conflicts in advance so everyone can plan accordingly. The more parents keep their schedules, the less anxious their child will be.
When you are thrust into a situation that surprises you, keep your head. Keeping an even temperament, despite a co-parent going against the grain or just doing something petty to annoy you, communicate your frustration to the parent. This will save you time, energy and precious sanity.
Disagree Behind Closed Doors
Disagreeing with an ex-partner is to be expected. However, regardless of how you both feel about varying parenting styles or what the other parent is doing with the kids, do not argue in front of the kids. When your kids see both their parents as loving and supportive of them as well as each other, they will feel more secure.
Exchange The Kids Kindly And Quickly
When co-parents meet to drop off or pick up their kids, be sure to keep it quick and light. If you want to discuss an important subject, schedule it in advance. If you want to bring along your new partner to meet the other parent, schedule it in advance. And most importantly, don’t get into a heated exchange with your ex during a drop-off. The goal is to have your child feel secure transitioning from home to home and any other interaction between parents that isn’t kind and respectful can be damaging.
Discuss The Roles Of New Partners
As time goes on, you and your co-parent may form new relationships. Before this happens, be sure to come to an understanding when it comes to the parameters of these roles. Many family professionals recommend that until the new partners have a secure place in the family structure, they should not be involved in any of the mutual child-rearing decisions, nor should they communicate with the ex-partner on matters related to the children. That being said, as time passes on, both you and your co-parent will want to be on the same page with how new partners interact with your kids.
Talk About The Good Moments To Your Kid’s Parent
This tip can be especially helpful for when co-parenting first begins. The transition from house to house will be hard for everyone involved, so sharing the positive moments of a fun event with your kiddo or just a cute shot of them will help your ex feel secure and build trust knowing that they are happy and healthy.
Create (And Actually Follow) Your Agreed Upon Parenting Plan
If you have a custody arrangement and a parenting plan that is approved by the courts, follow it to a tee. If you have such a formal plan, also follow it to a tee. If you don’t, create one that you and your co-parent can follow. Being able to discuss difficult moments before they transpire is a massive indicator of how the daily day-to-day co-parenting will go.
Forgive Your Ex
This may be a hard one to swallow but forgiving your former spouse will not only be healing for you but will also serve as a powerful lesson to your children. When children see their parents modeling good behavior and working cohesively (despite being separated) they can begin to understand how complicated relationships can still look healthy, safe and consistent.
A common complaint among co-parenting families: schedule mishaps. Having a shared, online calendar can avoid this entirely. Listing every recital, school concert, dance, and party, will help both parents know what to expect and develop trust. In addition, this will also help your kiddo know what to expect and give them peace of mind.
Don’t Be A “Disneyland Dad”
While the term specifies a father, either parent can fall guilty of this. A lot of co-parents complain at some point that their ex is the “fun parent” while they are stuck with school schedules, homework, chores, and extracurricular activities. Be sure that when you do have your child, their days are balanced. This will help avoid jealousy and competition, which can be confusing for the kids and hurtful for the co-parents.
At the end of the day, your child comes first. Once you and your ex are on the same page about that core issue, the rest will fall into place.
Sadly, there are some moments when co-parenting can lead to further legal action. If this sounds like your situation, be sure to document every interaction with the parent – including a date, time, content, and a list of anyone who witnessed the interaction. This will not only hold your partner accountable but also show that you care enough about the agreement to record what is transpiring in real-time.
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
- 1 Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
- 2 Stay On A Consistent Schedule
- 3 Don’t Overreact
- 4 Disagree Behind Closed Doors
- 5 Exchange The Kids Kindly And Quickly
- 6 Discuss The Roles Of New Partners
- 7 Talk About The Good Moments To Your Kid’s Parent
- 8 Create (And Actually Follow) Your Agreed Upon Parenting Plan
- 9 Forgive Your Ex
- 10 Utilize A Shared Online Calendar
- 11 Don’t Be A “Disneyland Dad”
- 12 Document Everything
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