Co-parenting is a tricky world to navigate around. There are a lot of people who love this child and want what’s best for them. Over the past six years I have learned different techniques and tips on how to be a successful co-parent. I may not be the biological mom in this situation, but I am a parent involved in helping raise two kids, so my voice and my actions matter too.
Putting the Child’s Needs First:
You will be in awkward situations with the other parent at times, and tension might begin to rise, but look around you, the kids are watching you and they can feel that tension too. Check your ego at the door. Put your emotions, anger, and resentment aside and focus on what is best for your child. In the end this is why you are co-parenting in the first place, because this is what’s in the best interest for the child.
You need to have mutual respect with the other parent, especially in front of the kids. Questioning the other parent in front of the kids will only confuse them and make them think they are able to treat them the same way. Each parent should respect the other’s place in the kid’s life. The also should respect the fact that they are a parent too, they have concerns and questions too, so hear them out. Respect can go a long way in forming a healthy and successful co-parenting relationship.
Communication is KEY in co-parenting. Young children have a hard time expressing how they feel and we as parents need to help communicate that with the other parent. If a relationship or marriage didn’t end on good terms, you still have to communicate with the other parent. The stronger the communication the fewer breakdowns and frustrations. This isn’t something that will happen over night. It takes time, respect, understanding and openness. I have personally seen a simple miscommunication turn into World War III. It’s stressful on everyone involved and in the end could have been avoided if everyone stopped and didn’t take everything personally.
Accept What You Can’t Control:
Let it goooooo, let it goooo! Don’t hold me back anymoreeeee! Okay you get the picture. “What happens at the other parent’s house stays there and vice versa.” This is mantra we have lived by since day one. We cannot control what goes on at the kid’s mom’s house. What we can control is what goes on at OUR house. You and your ex are going to disagree on things, it’s probably a reason you aren’t together anymore, but this isn’t about you and it isn’t about them. It’s about being a parent who is raising a child to be a successful and emotionally healthy adult. So let it go and focus on what’s REALLY important. The child.
Even if you have a court set parenting plan or visitation schedule, things will come up. It’s truly inevitable and life happens. Co-parenting is about working together and that means flexibility. Maybe a kid gets sick and one parent can’t take off of work or maybe you scored last minute baseball tickets and want to take your son but it’s not your day. Whatever the situation, work openly together and it will work out for everyone, especially for the child. Don’t make it a regular routine to switch around days, but when certain circumstances come up don’t look for ways to say no, think about what you would appreciate in the same situation.
This isn’t something we do, but I think it’s a phenomenal idea. I read about this a few years ago and we weren’t quite at this stage yet to do something like this, but it really is an easier way to keep everyone on the same page. Google Calendar and other calendar apps have this awesome way of letting you share a “family calendar”. It’s like a one stop shop for looking up the kid’s schedule at any immediate time you might need it. It can be used for scheduling school breaks, vacations, doctors appointments, or other extra-curricular activities. This could really solve a lot of miscommunication problems! Technology can really be a beautiful thing!
Similar Ground Rules:
This doesn’t mean you have to have similar parenting styles, but the basic rules like behavior, bed time, electronic limitations, and school work should be pretty similar. Think about all the rules in just ONE household, now imagine having to memorize two at such a young age. That’s pretty hard on a kid and hard on the parent who has to be the “bad guy” all the time because the other parent doesn’t have set bed times or time limits on electronics. Adjustments are hard and so is change, but having the common goal of an emotionally healthy child will make it a lot simpler.
Encourage Your Child’s Relationship with the Other Parent:
A child needs a sense of safety and security. When they go to the other parent’s house they shouldn’t be feeling anxious or worried. Encouraging them and showing excitement in your voice will only help the transition process. There will be times your child will be mad at the other parent, don’t feed into it, no matter how tempting it might be. They are upset and angry in that MOMENT, but it’s still their parent, so try and have the other parent’s back. In the end you are still a team and a child should respect their parents. The best way to teach them that is leading by example.
Don’t Put the Kid in the Middle:
Seems like common sense right? Well you’re wrong. This actually happens all the time. I have heard so many horror stories of this and this is actually something I went through when my parents were going through a divorce. Don’t use your kids as messengers or any other form of communication with the other parent. That’s not their job, their job is to be a kid, not handle adult situations. Have something serious to talk about with the other parent? Don’t do it at drop off, wait for a time when the kids aren’t around to have that conversation. Kids don’t need to worry about adult problems.
Kids need consistency in their lives. Stability helps a child thrive. Having a set routine and schedule with the other parent is crucial in the beginning stages of co-parenting. It helps everyone involved and helps everyone get situated in this new lifestyle. A lot of things are changing in your life, your ex’s life and your kid’s lives, but giving them a stable and set routine gives them a sense of security and safety that all children yearn for.
Not all of these tips work for everyone. Every co-parenting situation is different. Every household is different. But at the end of the day we all want the same thing. What is best for the kids, and what’s best for the kids is successful co-parenting!