The do’s and don’ts of co-parenting effectively
Parenting is a job for life. One of the challenges for parents who are no longer together is finding a way to co-parent. The following are some tips for making the job of co-parenting easier.
Put your anger and animosity toward the other parent aside
There is a reason why you and the other parent are no longer together; however, the children should not bear the brunt of that animosity. It is vitally important that the children see you and your ex communicate in a polite manner. Children are extraordinarily receptive and when they sense anger, it is likely going to cause them a great deal of stress.
Try to be flexible
Parenting schedules are set up to facilitate the exchange of children. They enable everyone to know what to expect. The reality for many parents is that things come up and there will be times when one parent must ask for a deviation from the schedule. It is ideal for everyone involved if you can be flexible. Remember – it is for your benefit too as you also may need to request a deviation from the schedule from time to time.
Respect time with the other parent
Your time with your children is your time. Your ex’s time with the kids is theirs. Try to be sensitive about infringing on that time. While it is acceptable to touch base once in a while, especially during long periods of placement with the other parent, do not repeatedly call, text or otherwise interfere with your child’s time with the other parent.
Be open to different parenting styles
You probably did many things differently from your former spouse/partner when you were married. It stands to reason that you may also have different approaches to parenting. Make room for these different styles and be open to having discussions about what approach to take when you need to be unified.
Make exchanges easy
Lingering goodbyes with kids can make them feel guilty about leaving you. Avoid this by putting on a positive face when exchanging the kids and keeping the exchanges short and sweet.
Keep the kids out of it
One of the most destructive things you can do as a parent is to put the kids in the middle. You will undoubtedly have moments (probably many) of frustration when trying to arrange schedules, cover school expenses, medical aspects or some other issue that comes up. Discuss these issues with the other parent.
Do not make your child deliver the message. If you cannot have a discussion with the other parent without having an argument consider using a journal that you can exchange between you to work out these issues. You may also try using email, although this can sometimes be challenging as electronic communication makes it easier to vent. There is a wonderful program called Our Family Wizard (www.ourfamilywizard.com) that also can help facilitate communication between you and your ex-spouse. If you cannot work out the issue between the two of you, consider using a mediator.
Don’t badmouth the other parent
You may be angry with your former partner/spouse, but it is important not to let your emotions, whatever they may be, spill over to your children. Resist the urge to tell your children about the other parent’s deficiencies. Your children love both of their parents and it is very hurtful to them to hear one parent speak negatively about the other. They also know they come from half of that person. Badmouthing the other parent can make your children feel badly about themselves.
Following these tips will enable you to co-parent more effectively and protect emotional well being of your child.