Co-parenting helps your kids feel safe, secure, and loved. However, for those who are separated, divorced, or sharing custody of a child this can be a challenging endeavor. Finding balance and a way to communicate effectively with your co-parent is essential to your child’s wellbeing. It is worth the effort to try to keep the family dynamics in place while also serving the needs of your children. Here are 5 vital co-parenting dos.
It is critical that you and your co-parent consider the best interests of your children at all times and put them first. They are the priority. With a child-centered focus, you can remember that your frustrating ex is also the mother or father that your child needs to love even if you don’t.
Love your children every day and spend quality time with each child in nature, playing games, cooking, reading, doing physical activities, and sharing in other interests they enjoy.
Develop a healthy communication style with your co-parent. Communication may be one of the hardest things to do but one of the most valuable in making the co-parenting model work. Agree to discuss all issues that arise with the children openly. Make time for communication and make it a top priority.
Arrange to do this through email, texting, voicemail, letters, or face-to-face conversation. There are even websites where you can upload schedules, share information, and communicate so you and your ex don’t have to directly touch base.
Update often. Although it may be emotionally painful, make sure that you and your ex keep each other informed about all changes in your life or circumstances that are challenging or difficult. It is important that your child is never, ever the primary source of information.
3. Be Consistent
Kids thrive on consistency, so be consistent with everything. Work out a plan with your ex so that rules stay the same in both houses. Your children need to know they cannot “get away” with something at the other parent’s home.
As much as they may fight it, children need routine and structure. Issues like mealtime, bedtime, schoolwork, snacks and chores need to consistent. Running a tight ship creates a sense of security and predictability for children.
No matter where your child is, he or she knows that certain rules will be enforced. “You know the deal, before we can go to the park, you must finish your homework.”
Ease the transition between you and your ex’s home by making sure the children have what they need (clothing, toys, bedding, specials foods, medicines, etc.) at both houses. Additionally, allow your children to participate in suggesting duplicate items, which will help eliminate lost or broken favorites.
4. Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries with your ex is another factor that reinforces consistency in your children’s lives, regardless of which parent they’re with at any given time. Keep things as professional as possible when setting boundaries, as in a business arrangement, which helps keep emotions at bay, and if your co-parent, crosses the lines, assertively but kindly remind them where your limits are.
You may also want to avoid social media. Privacy settings can help minimize what your ex sees. However, it may be best to disable your social media accounts. If you decide to stay on social media, be very cautious about what you post. Blocking your ex may be best as this will help you avoid looking at what they are doing.
Boundaries are a two-way street so be respectful of your co-parent’s boundaries. Don’t ask personal questions or pry into their social life. You can’t ask for privacy if you don’t respect theirs.
Keep your communications focused on your children. Don’t veer into territory like what you’ll be doing or who you’ll be with while your kids are with your co-parent. While your children are with you always allow them to call the other parent when they ask.
5. Positive Talk
Commit to positive talk. Agree with your co-parent that both of you will not speak badly about the other. Respect in a co-parenting relationship is essential for your children. Make it a rule not to entertain your children talking disrespectfully about your ex even though it may be music to your ears.
Go for the high notes. Each of you has valuable strengths as a parent. Remember to recognize the different traits you and your co-parent have – and reinforce this awareness with your children. Speaking positively about your ex teaches children that despite your differences, you can still appreciate positive things about the other parent. “Mommy’s really good at helping you with your homework. I know, I’m not as good as she is.” It also directs children to see the positive qualities in his or her parent too. “Daddy’s much better at baking than I am.”
Implementing these 5 “Dos” will undoubtedly improve the family dynamic. There are also Top 5 Disastrous Co-Parenting Don’ts, which will help you recognize what you may be doing to create more chaos and stress in your new family structure. There is no doubt that co-parenting can be difficult, but it is healthier for your children to spend time with both parents and receive the benefit of each parent’s input on major life decisions.