Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world. Raising children requires a lot of patience, perseverance and love. But it is a job meant for two people, that is what makes it thrilling and exciting. The parenting journey, though challenging, is a wonderful experience for loving and supportive couples.
But what happens when the love fades between couples?
There are couples who part ways after having kids. Co-parenting is even more challenging for them. Afterall, seeking support and compassion from an estranged partner cannot be easy! Co-parenting after divorce is particularly tough because couples have to bear an additional parenting responsibility – they have to prevent the the bitterness of their divorce from affecting their children’s growth and development. However, most divorced parents are not really successful in doing that.
But it doesn’t have to be like that forever. This New Year divorced couples can improve their co-parenting skills. The following co-parenting tips by 30 relationships experts can help them achieve that:
1) Put the child’s needs above your own ego Tweet this
Your resolution for 2017 may be to try to improve how you and your ex co-parent, which is no easy task. But it is possible; provided your goal is to put the child’s needs above your own ego. And one thing your child will benefit greatly from is the opportunity to have a healthy relationship with both parents. So this coming year, try to speak only kindly about your ex in front of your child. Don’t triangle your child into the middle, forcing them to take sides. Allow your child to develop his or her own opinions about each parent without your input. What is best for your child is a relationship with mom and a relationship with dad – so do your best not to interfere with that. And if all else fails, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
2) Communication is the key Tweet this
If divorced couples do not directly talk to one another, thoughts and feelings will get communicated through the children, and it is not their responsibility to be the middle person. Divorced couples should designate one phone call or in person meeting every so often to talk about how it’s going and express needs, concerns, and feelings.
3) Set aside their own relationship difficulties Tweet this
Co-parenting when divorced requires parents to set aside their own relationship difficulties to make room for their children’s needs. Work at evaluating your parenting decisions by asking “What is most beneficial to my child in this situation?” Don’t let your relationship problems determine the decisions that are made for your children.
4) 3 Important rules for divorced parents Tweet this
- I will not involve our child in disputes that I have with my ex.
- I will parent our child as I see fit when our child is with me and I will not interfere with parenting when our child is with my ex.
- I will allow our child to call their other parent when at my house.
5) Invite open and honest communication Tweet this
The relationship may have ended but the responsibility as parents still exists. Be sure to create a climate that invites open and honest communication. Co-parenting is much like having a business partner and you would never run a business with someone you didn’t communicate with. One of the best gifts you can offer your child(ren) is the example of what healthy and effective communication looks like.
6) It’s not a popularity contest Tweet this
Raising kids, especially when you are divorced, is a challenging job and so many of the parents I work with start turning parenting into a popularity contest. There is a lot of one-upmanship focused on who can buy the best toys or take the kids on the coolest excursion. The things is, kids figure this out pretty quickly and start to play parents off each other for monetary gain. This type of interaction by the parents can also make love feel conditional to kids and create anxiety in them as they develop. Instead, it is vital that you and your ex create a game plan where the kids have lots of fun experiences but that those are planned for by both parents. Creating a year long calendar, which includes events that the parents would like to offer their kids, is a way to even the playing field, unite the parents, and allow the kids to have a great time with both parents.
7) Let your children enjoy freedom of choice Tweet this
Divorce is a life changing event. However amicable the process, divorce can engender major and sometimes lasting impacts on the entire family system including our children. Custody issues aside, children of divorced parents are often susceptible to myriad adjustment challenges with various short-term and long-term ramifications.
While it may not be possible to completely shield our children from all the inevitable, we can honor them as individual beings with due respect and sensitivity. Because of our own personal feelings and residual animosities (if any), we as co-parents can sometimes be heedless to our children’s individual feelings and their rights to assert them, inadvertently injecting our own negative views of the other parent.
Our children deserve to have the opportunity to cultivate and preserve their own individual relationship with each of their parents independent of the ever evolving family constellation. As co-parents, we have the primary responsibility to help and encourage our children to do so by creating a safe milieu in which they can be properly guided to exercise their freedom of choice and thrive as unique persons. This is possible only if we can put aside our personal agenda and make concerted efforts to collaboratively do what’s in the best interest of our children.
8) Breathe in and out deeply Tweet this
“Consider using the three breath rule before reacting to demands, disappointments, and the never-ending stream of negotiations—breathe in and out deeply, and fully three times whenever you feel your emotional temperature rising. These breaths will create the space for responding rather than reacting, and help you stay in your integrity when you most want to lash out.”
9) Prioritize the emotional health of their children Tweet this
One of the best steps divorced parents can take is to prioritize the emotional health of their children by not bringing them into ongoing disagreements. Parents who make this mistake do great emotional harm to their children, and potential place a great strain upon their relationship with them. They need to remember that a child of divorced parents needs as much love and emotional security as possible, and that helping them to feel safe, prioritized and loved really needs to be their focus. Keeping them out of spousal arguments is one important way to accomplish that goal.
10) Appreciate all your children’s traits Tweet this
“Most parents try to raise their children in their image. If their children act differently from this image, parents usually experience fear, and scold the child. Since your children spend time with the other parent, they will be influenced by them, and may act differently than you want. Your co-parenting new year’s resolution is to instead appreciate all your children’s traits, even if they differ from your image due to influence from the other parent”
11) Be present! Tweet this
Update your co-parenting relationship by bringing it into present time. So many of our hurts are carried around from the past. Instead of looking backwards and having it color our present, resolve to look forward toward new possibilities in the future. Being in the moment is where new opportunities can arise.
12) Filter the information for the kids Tweet this
One Tip for Co-parenting: If you are in a chaotic co-parenting relationship, it can be helpful to filter both what you say to your partner and what information you take in. For example, before you talk to your partner, make sure you have filtered the information to only the facts or needs for the kids. You aren’t responsible for taking care of each other’s emotions anymore. Leave feelings out of it, and stick to facts including who needs to go where, when and for how long. Learn to be very succinct and to shut the conversation down if it goes beyond that. In some cases, couples work better if they are sharing emails only. This allows you to think about what you want to say and even ask for a second party to look over the details. Either way, the most important people in this process are your kids. Try to do what is best for them, and keep your own feelings out of the equation. You can always share your anger frustration with a third party such as a friend or therapist.
13) Make extended family part of your parenting plan Tweet this
It’s easy to forget after divorce that our children have extended family who love and want to spend time with them. As co-parents, it is important that you negotiate on and agree to the role extended family will play in your children’s lives and how much access they will be granted while the children are in each parent’s care.
14) Keep “adult” issues away from kids Tweet this
Whatever has happened between the two of you should not compromise the children or place them in a position where the feel they have to choose sides. This can contribute to feelings of anxiety and guilt during a time that is already difficult for them.
15) Communicate, compromise, listen Tweet this
One of the things I always wind up saying to divorced couples with children is that you need to do now what you probably, struggled with when you were together: communicate, compromise, listen, be respectful. My one suggestion would be to try and be courteous to each other, treating each other as would someone you work with. Don’t worry about the other guy, don’t keep score, just make an adult decision, put your nose down, and focus on your doing the best you can.
16) Refrain from speaking negatively about the ex-spouse Tweet this
The resolution I would suggest is to refrain from speaking negatively about the ex-spouse in front of the children. This includes tone, body language, and reactions. When this occurs, it can create anxiety and a sense of loyalty toward the parent who they feel is being hurt, as well as a degree of resentment about feeling as though they are in the middle of their parents negativity. It’s extremely stressful for children to hear hurtful statements about their parents and remember they can never ‘un-hear’ those things again.
17) It’s not about you, it’s about the kids Tweet this
I can probably say it in less than 10 words: “It’s not about you, it’s about the kids.” Kids go through enough chaos during/after a divorce. Anything the parents can do to minimize disruption and help them maintain their normal life activities is paramount.
18) Communicate with each other Tweet this
There is a temptation to use children as a conduit for information: “tell your father that I said he should stop allowing you to stay out past your curfew.” This indirect communication will only create confusion as it now blurs the line of who is really in charge of enforcing rules. If you have an issue with something your partner did then bring it to their attention. Don’t ask your children to deliver the message.
19) Don’t use your children as a weapon Tweet this
Your marriage has failed, but you don’t have to fail as a parent. This is your chance to teach your kids everything about a relationship, respect, acceptance, tolerance, friendship and love. Remember, there is a part of your ex in your child. If you show your child that you hate your ex, you also show them, that you hate that part in them.
20) Opt for “relationship” Tweet this
Understandably, co-parenting is a tough challenge for most divorced parents, and tough for the kids as well. While the divorce decree outlines the “rules” that must be followed, there is always the option to lay aside the decree and opt for “relationship”, at least for the moment, to consider a better solution to serve the child or children. NO one (stepparent, current partner) will ever love the children more than the two parents.
21) Keep your thoughts about your ex to yourself Tweet this
No matter how much you dislike or detest your ex, keep your thoughts about him or her to yourself, or at least keep them between you and your therapist or you and a close friend. Don’t try to turn your child against your ex, or risk doing so inadvertently.
22) Focus on the children first Tweet this
The one parenting tip I would provide to divorced couples raising children together is to focus on the children first. DO NOT talk about the other parents shortcomings to the children. Be adults or get some counselling. Let the children know this is not their fault, that they are truly loved and provide space for them to express their feelings and grow through this significant change in their lives.
23) Clear boundaries are critical Tweet this
Children need to see that each parent is committed to a new life, and that they are respecting their ex partner’s new life as well. This gives children permission to do the same. Children often harbour an unconscious wish that their parents may reunite, and so we do not want to fuel this false belief. Knowing when to collaborate in co-parenting, and when to pull back and allow space for individual parenting, is key.
24) Love your child Tweet this
For co-parenting to work, I must love my child or children more than I hate/dislike my ex-partner. The less defensive/hostile I am, the easier and smoother co-parenting will be.
25) Focus on your kids well-being Tweet this
If it didn’t work in your marriage, don’t keep doing it in your divorce. Stop and do something different. It might be as simple as an attitude/perspective change … I am still have a common interest with this person – OUR kids well-being. Researchers report how resilient children are post divorce is directly related to how well the parents get along in divorce…your fighting in the marriage did not help, it will only make matters worse in divorce. Be respectful of your co-parent. He or she may have been a lousy spouse, but that is separate from being a good parent.
25) Be good parents Tweet this
Children are most secure when they believe their parents are good people. Right up through teen years the brains of children are still in the process of developing. This is why their behavior may seem off the deep end to adults: Impulsive, dramatic, unrealistic. But it is precisely for this reason that children cannot handle information from one parent that attacks the other parent. This information will lead to increased insecurity, which, in turn, leads to coping mechanisms that will surely make things worse. For example, they may feel safer taking sides with the physically stronger or scarier parent – just for security. The parent who gets the child’s loyalty may feel great, but it is not only at the expense of the other parent, it is at the child’s expense.
26) Avoid talking negatively Tweet this
When co-parenting after divorce it is important to avoid talking negatively about your ex in front of your children, or doing anything that would get in the way of your child’s relationship with the other parent. Except in extreme situations of abuse, it is vitally important for your children to continue to develop as loving a relationship as possible with each parent. There is no greater gift you could give them through this difficult transition.
27) Respect that your ex will always be the other parent Tweet this
“Remember that you owe it to your children to respect that your ex is and will always be their other parent. No matter what feelings, positive or negative, you still feel toward your ex spouse, it is your responsibility to not only speak fairly of the other parent, but to be supportive of their relationship. Furthermore, divorced or not, children are always watching their parents as an example of how to treat others with respect.”
28) Don’t use children as pawns for your fight with your ex Tweet this
“Co-parenting can be a challenge, especially when children are used as pawns in a battle of egos. Detach from your pain and focus on your child’s loss. Be conscious and consistent with words and actions, prioritizing their best interest, not your own. Your child’s experience will impact how they see themselves and the world around them.”
29) Abandon all ideas of control Tweet this
Children get caught uncomfortably by parents getting upset about what the other does. Learn to separate and allow differences. Ask for what you want, remembering the other person’s right to say “no”. Acknowledge to your child: “That’s the way you do things at Mom’s (Dad’s) house; it’s not how we do them here. Then, move forward, allowing differences!
30) Step “into” and “outside” Tweet this
Learn to “step into” being each of your children and your co-parent, in turn, experiencing that person’s point of view, thoughts, feelings, and intentions, including how you look and sound to them. Also learn to “step outside” and view this family as an objective, neutral observer would.
These tips will help you and your ex in improving your co-parenting skills and will make your kid’s childhood happier and less stressful.