For parents who have recently divorced or separated, the prospect of co-parenting can feel daunting. While it’s easy to say you and your child’s other parent will simply make decisions together, co-parenting can get complicated and emotional in practice.
If you’re trying to navigate a custody arrangement that involves collaborating equally to raise your child, try the following co-parenting techniques for separated and divorced parents. With these strategies, you and your ex can continue raising well-adjusted, loved children, even after the marital relationship ends.
It’s perfectly reasonable to feel hurt or angry during a separation or divorce, especially towards your child’s other parent. However, those feelings don’t need to dictate your behavior when interacting with your co-parent. Staying focused on your child ensures any negative feelings you have toward your ex don’t show around your children, so you don’t make your co-parenting partnership worse or cause conflict between you and your child.
When communicating with your co-parent, take a professional tone that focuses on the child’s well-being. For instance, if you are concerned about something your ex is doing (or not doing), frame the discussion around the impact on your child, rather than making negative statements about your ex. Good communication is also about listening, so be sure to hear your co-parent out when having discussions and getting updates from their time with your child.
It may be emotionally difficult to talk frequently with your former partner — especially in the beginning — but try to communicate with them about your shared child on a routine basis. Not only will both of you stay more informed and have a comprehensive view of your child’s life, but establishing a regular cadence of civil communication can help set a good example for your child and show them that they are your top priority.
Co-parents need to have a united front in discipline and big decisions. Otherwise, your child may develop sentiments like, “Mom lets me do this at her house,” or “Dad said I can, so I’m going to do it anyway, even if you don’t like it.” The two of you should aim for parenting consistency, having similar rules, disciplinary consequences, and routines for your child.
If your co-parenting relationship is particularly tumultuous because of a messy divorce, consider seeing a therapist who specializes in co-parenting. Sessions may be difficult to experience and hard to coordinate, but they’ll re-energize you both and remind you that your priority is your child.
Collaborative calendar apps allow you to easily coordinate with your co-parent without a long, drawn-out discussion. Create a shared family calendar online that can be accessed by both parents that includes sports games, doctor’s appointments, and family obligations. This will help everyone stay organized and avoid conflicts that arise from scheduling or communication issues.
Keeping threads of communication documents is a smart idea if your former partner is particularly difficult. On the off chance that you end up in court, having solid documentation to back up your side will give you a stronger case. It also helps to download a co-parenting app so that there is an unalterable record of all communication between the two of you.
Never use your child as a means of communication between you and your co-parenting partner. It unfairly places them in the middle of a strained relationship they didn’t ask to be a part of. Let them be a child and handle communication with your co-parent another way.
Speaking positively about your co-parent in front of your child can maintain a sense of normalcy for them and model healthy adult relationships. It shows them that, even though your marriage didn’t work out, ex-spouses can still be on good terms with one another and put what really matters – their children – ahead of their feelings.
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