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. After all, seeking support and compassion from an estranged partner cannot be easy!
However, most divorced parents are not really successful in dealing with co-parenting problems. But it doesn’t have to be like that forever. Successful co-parenting and effective co-parenting can be achieved.
This New Year, divorced couples can improve their co-parenting skills. The following practical co-parenting tips and successful co-parenting strategies 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.”
Healthy 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 co-parenting solutions 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
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-upmanships focused on who can buy the best toys or take the kids on the coolest excursion. The thing 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 the freedom of choice Tweet this
A 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 shield our children from all the inevitable completely, we can honor them as individual beings with due respect and sensitivity by creating some co-parenting boundaries.
Because of our own personal feelings, residual animosities (if any), and at times co-parenting with an uncooperative ex 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 relationships 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.
“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 co-parenting ground rule: 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 of 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
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.
Whatever has happened between the two of you should not compromise the children or place them in a position where they feel they have to choose sides. This can contribute to feelings of anxiety and guilt during a time that is already difficult for them.
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 parent’s 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.
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.
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 parent’s shortcomings to the children.
Be adults or get some counseling. 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.
Children often harbor 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.
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 still have a common interest with this person – OUR kid’s 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.
Children are most secure when they believe their parents are good people. Right up through the 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.
An important co-parenting tip for divorced parents is 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
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.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.