Whether you’ve been co parenting for a while, or are just facing up to the realities of parenting after separation, you’ll find some challenges to overcome. Co parenting can be stressful and let’s be frank, sometimes your co parent will push your buttons.
Figuring out how to work well together is vital for your kids’ well being. Being caught between co parents who can’t agree, or feeling like they have to pick sides, will leave your children stressed out and feeling insecure. Learning to co parent well is in their best interests, which is why building a respectful co parenting relationship should be one of your top priorities after a separation.
If you want to create a successful co parenting relationship, start by being respectful of your co parent. Try some of these tips to help you learn how.
Make a co-parenting agreement
A co parenting agreement shows respect for your ex, and ultimately helps you both create a better situation for your children. It might be painful to do, but it’s time to sit down together and hash out the details.
Try to cover as many eventualities as you can, such as:
- How to handle transition days
- Where to spend major holidays
- How to celebrate birthdays
- Attending parent teacher meetings
- How to allocate vacation times
It’s also a good idea to agree on ground rules, such as:
- How much allowance to give
- Limits on phone or computer time
- Bedtimes and mealtimes
- When it’s okay to introduce a new partner
- Whether it’s okay to share pics of your kids on Facebook
- Limits regarding the type of games, shows or movies you’ll allow
- When to give snacks or treats
The more you can agree ahead of time, the more stable an environment you can create for your children. Having an agreement will make each of you feel respected and help you function as a team.
Don’t drag the kids into it
Dragging the kids into your disagreements isn’t just stressful for them; it also makes your co parent feel undervalued and undermined.
If you have an issue with your co parent, talk to them about it directly. Never let yourself slip into criticizing them in front of your kids. That includes criticizing their lifestyle, new partner, or parenting choices. Of course you won’t agree with everything they do – sometimes you’ll hear things from your kids that make you frustrated – but take it up with your ex directly.
Don’t use your kids as messengers, either. Your ex should never be hearing news about your life, or messages about plans or pick up times, from your children. Keep the negotiations between the two of you.
Let the little things go
Once you’ve got your co parenting agreement in place and you’re happy with how the major things are being handled, try to let go of the little things.
Make sure your co parenting agreement covers everything that really matters to you, whether that’s how much allowance to give or how to handle issues at school. Beyond that, try to let go of the little things that don’t matter so much. Ask yourself if any real harm will come from your kids having a slightly different bedtime or watching an extra movie at their co parent’s home.
Realize that sharing won’t always be 50/50
It’s all too easy to get caught up on the idea that co parenting must always mean a 50/50 split. That’s not always going to be practical though.
If one of you has to travel a lot for work, it might make more sense for the other to take care of the kids more often. Or if one of you is particularly involved with a sport they play, they’re going to be more involved when training season comes.
Instead of focusing on finding an exact 50/50 split, focus on what will give your children the most stable life. Naturally you’ll both want to have time with your children, and making sure you both get it is vital, but quibbling over the number of hours you get will turn co parenting into a battlefield. Focus on quality time, not splitting hairs over quantity.
Don’t be territorial over belongings
Have you ever got frustrated because your kids left an expensive game device or their best shirt at their other parent’s house? Getting upset can make your co parent feel like their house isn’t your kids’ real home, which won’t foster a good co parenting relationship.
Of course you’ll want to encourage your children to be careful with expensive or vital belongings, but it’s also important to realize that their belongings are just that, theirs. Both your house and your co parent’s house are home now, so a certain amount of splitting belongings between them is natural. Don’t make your kids feel like they’re only vacationing with their other parent.
Be professional and polite
Maintaining a polite, respectful tone around your co parent won’t always be easy, but it will help your co parenting relationship flourish. No matter how much they push your buttons, bite your tongue and stay calm at all times.
Take the time to say thank you for the things they do, whether that’s letting you know ahead of time if they’re running late, or stepping in to take the kids to hockey. Show that you appreciate their efforts, and return the favor in kind by respecting their time and boundaries, too.
Co parenting can be fraught with stress, but it doesn’t have to be. If you can foster a more respectful attitude towards your co parent, you can build a strong parenting team that will give your kids the security they need after a separation.