As if separation and divorce aren’t hard enough on a family, a whole new struggle emerges when it comes time to co-parent. Co-parenting is the term used when two parents, who are no longer together for whatever reason, agree how their children are cared for, and it’s usually no walk in the park.
Parents struggle enough with bedtimes, discipline, and working things out around school schedules and extracurricular activities, so when you need to try and organise these things with someone you don’t live with anymore, it can be even tougher. However, there are some things that experts agree on that can make the entire process easier, not just for the parents, but your children, too.
Be Careful How You Speak
One of the biggest mistakes that parents make after separation is to talk badly about their ex in front of their children. According to the experts at Psychology Today, children interpret this as a direct put-down about them as they feel as if they are a part of their parents. This behaviour could make your children question your feelings about them and even lead them to think it’s okay to mimic this behaviour. If you hear your children put the other parent down, make a point of correcting them and tell them it’s not acceptable. Instead, advise them to speak directly about any issues they might be having.
When entering into any co-parenting agreement you need to have an open dialogue with your ex-partner about the rules that are in place. Both households should stick to the same consistent routine in regards to homework, mealtimes, bedtimes, and chores so that both spaces feel comfortable for your child. This can also help to reduce any feelings that one house or parent might be more favourable due to a relaxed attitude towards the rules.
Listen To Your Child Without Judgement
When you collect your child from your ex’s house, or they come home after a stay, ask them with enthusiasm how their time was. Rather than being annoyed that they enjoyed the visit, you should listen with appreciation and openness. Your child will be spending time there regardless, but you want them to feel as though they can talk freely and without judgement from you, no matter how the experience went.
Try to Avoid Last Minute Changes
Being a parent means dealing with lots of schedule changes and unplanned events, but when you’re co-parenting these can be even harder to manage. Try to avoid any last minute changes to the schedule that might put your ex out, and do your best to prevent these from occurring when the children are meant to be heading back to your place. Ultimately, any last minute changes should be decided depending on your child’s school, bedtime, and other commitments and always considering what’s best for your kids.
Let Go of Your Control
This can be a huge challenge for parents to do, especially if in the past you’ve been used to making most of the decisions regarding the care of the children. One of the biggest differences with co-parenting is that you have no control over what the other parent is doing and simply have to have faith that everything will be okay. Try to remember that they are also a parent to your children and undoubtedly want the very best for them, so don’t dwell on minor details, as long as the kids are being cared for and looked after.
Be the Bigger Person
There might be times where your ex is being difficult, and doing so deliberately, but it’s all about how you react to this challenge. You should always resist the urge to stoop to a lower level and remain level-headed so that you can be the calm and reasonable adult in the situation. Your children need at least one of you to be the bigger person, so don’t be tempted to be petty just because your ex-partner might be.
Doing What’s Best For Your Children
Ultimately, everything you do as a parent and especially in a co-parenting situation should have the interest of your child at heart, first and foremost. It can be so easy to get caught up in the squabbles that occur when any marriage or partnership breaks down, but in the special situation of having kids to consider, it’s important to see the bigger picture for their sake.
Separation and divorce can be incredibly tough for children, even if they might be hiding it well, and one thing we can do as parents to make it easier is giving them a comfortable and judgement free home to live in.
For more advice on tricky parenting scenarios and how to face these common challenges, read through the rest of the Peachymama blog here.