Going through a divorce is an uphill battle and raising children together after it is an even bigger mountain to climb.
Children may come from a broken family, but they don’t necessarily have to be torn apart. There are ways to help children cope with the divorce and adjust well to life after divorce, and one of those ways is through co-parenting.
Here are 11 tips on co-parenting that will help you ensure that your co-parenting journey is as smooth as possible
1. Practice empathy
In many successful co-parenting relationships, empathy is often present. Which is why ‘practicing empathy’ is one of our top tips on co-parenting.
While we acknowledge that this may be the most challenging thing to do especially when the divorce or separation is still fresh, and your feelings toward your ex-are still raw. It is the most crucial tip for successful co-parenting.
2. Make time for co-parent meetings
Setting up regular co-parenting meetings is a frequently overlooked but brilliant tip for co-parenting.
We often forget to communicate in everyday life mindfully, and by default, we tend to make assumptions in the way that we communicate. Which can lead to problems and even arguments).
If you hold regular co-parenting meetings, then you can create a formal environment that is focused on all things related to your joint co-parenting ventures, which will eliminate emotion, frustration, miscommunication, and insecurity in your child or children.
It’s important to treat your “co-parent meetings” as if it were a business meeting here are some ideas;
- Make the atmosphere professional
- Set an agenda
- Create a formal system for both parties to add the topics they need to discuss the agenda.
- Set boundaries for communication that you both agree on.
- Stick to what you have agreed to discuss, your boundaries and the organization of your meeting so that it becomes ‘the norm.’
- Remember that even happily married couples argue over the parenting of their children, don’t associate every issue with the possibility that your ex could be being difficult. Try to work with them and to seek fair outcomes for both parties.
- Consider including older children into the meetings (or allowing them to join at the beginning of the meeting to have their say) but make sure you take time together after the child has left to discuss how you will meet their needs, or address any concerns you have about the child.
- Park any emotion you hold toward your ex before you enter the meeting.
3. Speak positively and respectfully to your ex in front of the children
Your marriage may have dissolved, and you may have hurt each other, or continue to do so. But remember it wouldn’t hurt to say positive things about your ex in front of your children, in fact, it’s crucial. After all, your spouse is still your child’s biological parent and rejecting or putting down your spouse in front of your child is rejecting or putting down half of your child and trust us – they know this!
Speaking positively about your ex, such as: ‘Your father is so good at working on planning’ or ‘Your mother is the best at tying your hair’ will also increase the amount of respect that they have for your ex.
If you can’t find anything positive to say, you could just not say anything or agree with your child if they are praising your spouse.
If there are issues that do need to be raised, and your spouse is letting the child down, for example, addiction problems.
Talk to your child and explain but say things like; ‘Daddy is having some problems at the moment, and Mommy is helping him’, or ‘Grown up’s sometimes have problems and Mom’s dealing with some of these problems’, or ‘Grown-ups sometimes don’t get along very well, and Mom and Dad are having this problem but we both love you very much, and you can come and talk to us anytime you want to, Mom and Dad are ok though’.
4. Never handle arguments in front of the children
It is best to keep the children out of your arguments. They have probably already seen or sensed enough.
Try to diffuse the arguments in front of the children as quickly as possible and hold your emotional discussions with your co-parent when the children are not around.
5. Update your ex
Always update the co-parent about all of the important things related to the children and never use your child as your messenger.
Whether it is intentional or unintentional. Even if they are your ex, your spouse shouldn’t ever be left out of any important things, or events and children can confuse messages!
Try to include your ex in the good times too.
Consider setting up a simple message system to aid communication – Whatsapp is a great encrypted message system.
6. Maintain the balance of the co-parenting relationship
When you are newly divorced, it will be difficult to keep your emotions out of the co-parenting relationship, but you must for the sake of the co-parenting relationship and your child’s wellbeing.
Never try to influence your child’s perspective of your spouse by influencing them that you are the better parent. If you are doing this to hurt your ex, don’t. If you’re offering bribes to your children for them to see you as the good parent, don’t.
Further, overindulging your children (perhaps out of guilt, or to gain their love and attention) will not help them in the long run, and they may even end up lacking sympathy and forming a heightened sense of entitlement over time.
7. Set up boundaries and ground rules
A set of ground rules will allow you to be successful at co-parenting is a great tip on co-parenting.
This will aid in maintaining the balance and the status quo for both homes that the child will be living in.
For example; Maintain the number of hours of watching TV or gaming. If your child gets two hours of TV and game time at mommy’s home, then they should also get the same amount of hours at daddy’s home.
This will provide a smooth transition between homes and parents and will make it easier for the child to adjust during handover time.
8. Keep the handovers short
Make the handover or exchange time short.
Never cry or provide your ex with a long list of reminders while exchanging responsibility for the week. If you do so, there is the danger that your child might end up feeling guilty about being far from you.
9. Respect the children’s time with the other co-parent
No matter how lonely you might feel when your children are spending time with your ex, don’t interrupt their time together.
It will remind your children that it’s a difficult time and that you are alone which will interrupt their time with that co-parent. Instead, find a way to fill that time, talk to your family and friends, plan activities in advance and let the children see that you are ok alone – even if you are not.
10. Be open and flexible with schedules
Nothing hurts your children more than seeing you both argue especially over who is going to be spending time with them. Sure the visitation day is Friday, but their mother has spoken to you about taking your daughters shopping on a Wednesday.
They would love it, so let them be with their mom. One day when they’re older, they’ll look back to this and thank you for it.
11. Welcome the stepparent
It is essential for the children for you to build a relationship with a new stepparent.
By managing your feelings, you’ll let your children continue to love your spouse and build the love for their new stepparent. After all, a child growing in an environment full of love is a happy, well-balanced child and when the time comes for you to meet somebody, your ex will surely follow your lead which you’ll probably appreciate.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
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.