When you find yourself about to become separated or divorced, you might have a rough idea of what co-parenting is. But, it is only when you have to actually co-parent your child that you realize how difficult it is. You need to come in peace with what has happened to your marriage, to find new ways to interact with your ex, design an entirely new life for yourself, and you also have to balance all that with your children’s wellbeing.
How successfully you’ll co-parent will be a major factor in how well you and your family adapt to the change.
The basics of co-parenting
Co-parenting is when both (divorced or separated) parents are involved in the child’s upbringing, although it is mostly one parent that has greater responsibilities and spends more time with the child.
Except for when there’s abuse in the family or some other serious reasons against it, it is usually recommended that both parents remain active participants in the child’s life.
Research shows, it is better for the child to have a cohesive relationship with both parents. Co-parenting is built around the ideal of providing the child with a safe and stable environment, without conflicts and stressors.
The most desirable form of co-parenting is the one in which parents agree on the goals of the upbringing of their child, as well as methods how to achieve these goals. Moreover, the mutual relationship between the parents is an amicable and respectful one.
Co-parenting is, therefore, more than just sharing custody. It is a form of a partnership. After a marriage breakdown, it is common for the ex-spouses to be resentful of each other and often unable to find common ground. Yet, as parents, they should aim to achieve a new form of relationship in which the children are put first.
The purpose of co-parenting is for the child to have a secure home and family, even when they aren’t all living together.
The do’s of co-parenting
There are right and wrong ways to co-parent your child.
Unfortunately, having just gone through a separation of your relationship doesn’t make it easy to be a good partner to your ex. Many marriages get destroyed by fights, infidelities, breaches of trust. You probably have a lot to cope with. But, what must always come first is how to be a good co-parent to your child.
The most important principle that should guide your every move when it comes to co-parenting is to make sure you and your ex are on the same page when it comes to all the major issues.
That means that the two of you should dedicate effort to achieving clear and respectful communication. In effect, for example, rules in your households should be consistent and the child will have a stable routine regardless of where he or she spends time.
The next important do in co-parenting is to commit to talking about your ex in a positive light and require the same from your children. Allowing for negativity to creep in will only backfire.
Similarly, be on the watch for your children tendency to test boundaries, which they will do. They will probably be tempted to use the situation to their advantage and try and get something they would otherwise never get. Don’t ever allow that.
Also, make sure that you find ways to communicate with your ex, even If you don’t feel like it. It is important that you don’t let your children be the only source of information regarding what’s happening while they’re with their other parent. Update each other frequently and be sure to discuss all new issues as they arise.
The don’ts of co-parenting
Even for the most cordial ex-spouses, there’s a lot of challenges in co-parenting.
You may be tempted to be the most fun and indulgent parent out there. Either to make your children like you more than your ex, or simply to make their lives as easy and joyful as they can be, given that their parents just split. However, don’t make this mistake. Children thrive when there’s a healthy balance of routine, discipline, fun, and learning.
Another big no-no when it comes to co-parenting is letting your frustration and hurt guide your talks about your ex.
Your children should always be protected from your marital conflicts. They should get a chance to develop their own relationship with their parents, and your “adult” disagreements shouldn’t be a part of their perception of their mother or father.
Co-parenting is about creating an atmosphere of respect and trust.