More people than ever before are finding themselves in a co-parenting relationship. Whether the co-parenting is the result of a divorce or break-up, it is no easy task. It allows for new parental issues due to miscommunication, different schedules, and different opinions. As you journey through co-parenting, it is essential to understand what it means, and what you can do to make it work with your ex. Today we are going to be walking you through what co-parenting is, and how you can easily navigate it with your family.
What does “Co-parenting” mean?
The term “co-parenting” is used to describe a parenting relationship in which the two parents of a child are no longer romantically involved, but still assume shared responsibility for the upbringing of their child. Because the responsibly is shared by different households, co-parenting can become difficult. Co-parenting does not mean that one parent has more of a voice than the other. The parenting should be shared with each party contributing in their own way.
It is going to be difficult at times. Fortunately, we have gathered some essential tips to help you be successful in co-parenting.
Follow Each Other’s Requests
Discuss any specific requests you have with parenting styles, scheduling, rules, etc. Your ex cannot follow your wishes if you do not sit down and agree on specific requests. Compromise with each other and be kind in the way you communicate. You will most likely always be in each other’s lives because of your children. Therefore, it makes sense to build a healthy co-parenting relationship, one with mutual respect. Here are some issues you’ll need to decide:
- Times and schedules for shared custody with your child.
- Parties thrown for your child-whether you will each have a birthday party or if you will each contribute to one party.
- Rules, boundaries, and behavioral guidelines for raising the child. The rules should be consistent no matter which parent the child is with. Children need routine and will do better if the rules are the same in each household. Make a plan for rules, homework, meals, bed, etc. Note: Children will test each parent to see if they are going to uphold the same rules. Agree to stick to the plan unless you both agree to change.
- Toys or gifts to be given to the child.
- When to introduce someone you are dating to your child.
- The role extended family from each side will play in your child’s life. Make sure you each share any concerns you have about specific family members.
Don’t Talk Badly About Each Other
You will probably not agree with everything your ex-does, and it’s possible that you have totally different views from one another. However, it is crucial that you do not talk badly about each other no matter how irritated you may feel. The more negative feelings you have, the more they will grow. Negativity towards one another is bound to leak out in one form or another. It is especially important to avoid this in front of the kids. Respect is essential for every relationship. You need to respect each other and teach your children how to respect others. Children need to see that you respect each other or it will affect their relationship with both of you.
Do not try to get back at one another, especially by bending the rules. Again, this will not help the healthy relationship that needs to be maintained for the health of your family.
- Keep an open dialogue with your ex. With cell phones glued to our hip (and hand), communication couldn’t be easier. Although you might not always want to talk, it will be helpful to your child if you have healthy communication. Create boundaries, but also allow for issues to be discussed. Make sure both of you are aware of the scheduling. There are apps and websites that can help you combine your schedules in a way that is comfortable to you.
- Share your life to protect your child. I have seen how hard it can be for children to update their parents on the news from the other parent. As awkward as it may be, update your co-partner on any big changes in your life. This would include personal relationships, living situations, or any other significant changes.
- Don’t be quick to condemn. If you find out through your child that something happened with your ex that you don’t agree with, take a slow response. Remember to not voice any negative feelings about your co-partner and remain calm. Find a time you can discuss the issue. However, do so in a way that is child-centered. Avoid pointing fingers and instead ask non-accusatory questions first. Then use statements such as “I feel _____when _____.”
But, remember that this child is both of yours, so you are going to have to compromise. You each have different strengths to bring to your parenting. Remind yourself of the good qualities and even point them out to your child.
Remember It’s All About The Kids
As a co-parent, you must always remember that it is not about you. It is about your child. This could be particularly hard if your breakup with your child’s parent did not end smoothly. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Do not put your child in the middle of you two. This means do not ask your child personal questions about your ex just to be nosy. Do not confide in your child by telling them how you feel about your ex or how you have been hurt in the past. Never sabotage your child’s relationship out of jealousy. Research proves that when a child is exposed to conflict or put in the middle, they feel helpless and insecure.
- Do not give into guilt. Sometimes co-parenting can produce guilt because you are not around your child full time. But it is not healthy to compensate time with bending the rules or overindulging with foods, toys, etc. Try not to grant wishes based on your emotions. Although it might make you feel better if you give your child everything they ask for, research has shown it produces unhealthy results. Children are more likely to become self-centered, lack empathy, and believe they are entitled to everything from others. They are also less likely to become self-controlled and unlikely to understand need versus want.
- Don’t try to be the cool parent. It is so crucial to follow the rules you and your co-partner have set. Trying to be the “fun” one is only going to backfire in the end. Remember, it is not about you. Your child needs healthy, stable parents who do what is best for them. Having fun is wonderful and necessary, but so is day-to-day living.
- Have fun! Remember that your children are what is most important. Try not to get caught up in competing with your co-parent, but just enjoy the time you have with your child.
Your children are counting on both of you to create a healthy family dynamic in which they can flourish. Work hard with your co-partner to put your relationship in the past to keep your children as the focus. They will continue to look up to both parents and need each of you to co-parent well. I know that this can be difficult, but it will help your children transition well after a divorce or break up. Happy co-parenting and remember that you can do this!