Successful co-parenting takes work and real skill. It is hard, draining and sometimes stressful when parents cannot seem to agree on rules of engagement or move past their hurt and emotions. Unfortunately, it is the only way to ensure your child enjoys stability, security and strong bond with both parents after a split. With the alarming cases of divorce today, co-parenting is about to become a reality for many families. Whether you chose to co-parent amicably or as a result of a court process, it is a journey of compromises to put the needs of the child first. Here are tips on how to ensure that you cope well with this process for your good and that of the child.
- Do not let feelings get in the way: manage them
I would have started by telling you to heal first before co-parenting; but then I remembered that you cannot force healing because it takes time, and sometimes the healing never happens. So is your child going to wait forever to get access to your parental love or care from the other parent? Certainly not, because they grow like weeds and soon they will be ‘adulting’. However, since co-parenting is child-centered you can choose to put the feelings aside for the sake of the children.
You do not have to be best of friends with your ex-partner but you can choose to allow a level of understanding that will allow communication between parents. When discussions about co-parenting begin, do not get into the circumstances around the break up. It will only flare up emotions and fuel blame game. Stick to the script- children and their interests. Seek a counselor if you need to learn how to manage this hurt. Take lessons on emotional intelligence if need be. Anticipate the circumstances around the cooperation such as meeting their new partner or differing on parenting style. It will help you manage your emotions and keep your cool.
- Keep the kids out of the mess
So how do I keep the children out of the mess when they are the reason for engagement? Simple, do not send with messages to the other parent. Do not ill-talk the other parent or antagonize them. Do not speak negative things about your ex-partner even when the behavior is negative. Do not initiate gossips when they visit or after they return from the other home. Always keep in mind that your children have a right to build a relationship with the other parent without your influence. Do not make the children to have to choose between the two parents.
- Embrace co-parenting
Your relationship may be done but your family is still here: so give priority to the best interest of the child. Accept that this arrangement is for the well-being of the child and not the two of you. The first step to this acceptance is to separate the relationship with your ex-partner from the co-parenting relationship. Perceive your relationship with your ex as totally new – one that is exclusively about the good of the kids. The second step is to be mature, responsible and always put the needs of the child before yours.
- Work on your communication
Even for a healthy relationship, communication is the pillar that holds everything together. To co-parent successfully work on a proper communication flow. Here are simple tips that could help for a start:
- Adapt a business-like tone
- Make requests not demands
- Listen: this is the hallmark of communication and maturity
- Control yourself
- Make a commitment to meet or talk consistently
- All conversations should be child-focused
- Learn some quick-self relief techniques; you will need them when pressure builds up
- Work as a team and make decisions together
Separation tends to bring out the worst from two people. It is not surprising to see ex-partners playing favorites to the children to antagonize the other partner. This is wrong as it messes up the behavior system of the child. Instead, work as a team and if possible harmonize systems around homework, discipline, entertainment, visitation and communication for the children. This is also important because children will not have to do a 360 degree adjustment when they visit the other parent. To straighten out things, make decisions together to avoid creating conflicts, wasting resources, or playing favorites.
- Smoothen out visitations and transitions
The co-parenting set up is conflicting for the child. Different homes, new spouses, change away from the norm, and questions on why mum and dad can’t just live in same house are not easy scenarios for kids to navigate. While you cannot change the circumstances, you can help them come cope well and make the best out of the quality time that they spent with each parent. These tips will come in handy:
- Help the children anticipate change by talking about leaving a day or two before the visit
- Pack in good time, preferably a day or two before
- Always drop-off the kid; avoid ‘taking the child from’ the other parent’s house
- Don’t rush when they return, let them relax for sometime
- Double up necessities such as toiletries so that they can have a pair in each house
- Build a unique routine of activities or games for each time they return
Co-parenting is the ultimate sacrifice for your child when a relationship breaks down. While it may not be easy to pursue given the emotional complications involved, these tips provide you with a simple yet practical checklist to start you off. Let us know your experience with co-parenting, and what you feel about these suggestions.
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