Parenting is about mutual respect and understanding. To tend to a child’s needs and wellbeing, both parents must have positive communication and greater care and affection for the child. Children are usually left vulnerable to the emotional turmoil caused by a divorce. Their lives are destabilized by the conflict prior to and after the divorce.
Separation and divorce change the family dynamics. However, co-parenting can still be stable and comforting for the child as long as both parents act responsibly and keep the children’s best interests in mind, putting aside their personal differences.
What is Co-Parenting?
You might be considering focusing your efforts and energy on different aspects of the family after separation to maintain productive, positive, and supportive communication. And that includes parenting after separation. People often freak out at this stage and decide to turn away from such complications when they are fairly new to this type of arrangement.
We are discussing co-parenting and some associated factors and areas that you need to focus on diligently to maintain that balance of parental care for your children and ensure keeping their mental health and natural growth intact.
Simply put, co-parenting is the act of two separated people working together as caregivers for the best interests of their child/children. There might be questions like how hard can co-parenting be? The answer is it can often be extremely difficult and at times seem impossible.
You might think cutting ties with your ex-spouse is the best option for you. It just might be. However, your children have some needs from both their parents that need to be fulfilled to ensure their natural growth is seamless and unobstructed. You also need to consider saving them any trauma, depression, anxiety, frustration, or social pressure.
Putting aside your differences and working together as a caregiving unit for the sake of your child is the just thing to do. Hence, the concept of co-parenting came to being. This requires significant effort, respect, and understanding but can turn out to be a very effective approach to make the most out of an unpleasant situation and raise the kids right regardless of everything.
Both Parents Play for the Same Team
It’s been said over and over again that focusing on the children and their best interests is the key to successful co-parenting. It can be compared to a rock band that comes together only for live shows. You might feel like sworn enemies offstage, but on stage, you create an amazing show for the audience’s sake.
You and your ex might have a lot of conflicts, grievances, arguments, trauma, and a lot more that make you very angsty, but the idea is to have a safe place of mutual respect with your co-parent for the sake of your children.
Establish Clear Ground Rules
You must set an acceptable level of expectations and boundaries before even thinking about the idea of co-parenting and it starts from the very beginning of divorce process. This is important to predetermine the dos and don’ts of the arrangement.
Keeping it Civil
Any interaction or communication with your ex-spouse might be supercharged with emotions and unpleasant. You still need to keep it as pleasant as possible for the sake of your children.
- Avoid making negative remarks or criticizing your co-parent in front of the kids.
- Don’t let the kids see you fight under any circumstances. It never ends well for anyone.
- Keep your conversations focused on and limited to the children. That’s the only reason you’re in this unpleasantry. Avoid getting ideas otherwise.
- Maintain regular and productive communication with the co-parent. If possible, set up specific times and days for it. Avoid meeting them in person if you feel like it would be too much to take.
- Never use the children as a mode of communication
- Know the rights of the child through legal separation agreement
When you and your co-parent have finally settled the primary concerns and reached a minimal level of understanding, you need to start thinking about making it as easy for the children as possible. In this endeavor, consistency is key.
The children need to be guided and taught to become flexible enough by experiencing a variety of circumstances too. But there’s only so much flexibility you can expect from your kids. Children, on the other hand, do better with consistency, and they crave it. This calls for the two co-parents to try and create more suitable and stable conditions for the kids in all households.
It’s better to formulate a set of family behavioral rules for both your house and your co-parents. This makes it easier for children to comprehend what they can expect and what’s expected of them. This eventually leads to a consistent and disciplined approach.
Careful about getting into conflicts with your co-parent regarding differences in household rules. Having consistent rules across households might be ideal, but there’s no need to start fighting over consistency demands. In such cases, avoid getting into conflict and simply improve on what’s under your control.
Getting your children disciplined is hard enough under normal circumstances. In co-parenting, it can become a matter of discord. If the children behave a certain way and get disciplined at one household and get away with it at the other, it becomes confusing and creates conflict. This is not even fair to anyone.
Hence, it’s better to have similar disciplinary strategies across households to endorse positive and appropriate behavior in children and reduce confusion. Adapting your disciplinary strategies to match the co-parent’s can be logical in some cases.
Reward systems convey the message of positive reinforcement conditioning in children. Just like discipline, this also needs to be consistent. Suppose your co-parent is conditioning your child to speak in a quiet and polite manner instead of being loud and obnoxious using reward systems; you can adopt similar strategies at your household and reinforce the positive practice.
Co-parents should ideally prepare matching schedules across households if at all possible. If children can have a similar screen access time, morning routine, and bedtime schedules that are consistent, it helps them adjust better and feel more comfortable since they would be on the move between the households.
The Importance of Conflict Management and Communication between Co-parents
Unlike sole custody parenting, It’s obviously essential to preplan and determine your communication strategies with the co-parent regarding routines, strategies, rules, etc. There might be instances when you end up disagreeing on a matter involving your children. Effective and honest communication plays a major role in such cases.
However, it may be difficult, but everything becomes much easier when both of you have the children’s wellbeing as your common goal. Moreover, clear communication reduces co-parenting stress.
Consider the following for better communication and conflict management:
- Consider being very professional and get a grip on your emotion.
- Discuss the possibility of implementing ideas rather than stating or enforcing certain actions. Such as “Maybe we could….”
- Be a better listener. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to agree.
- Be mentally prepared to reach a ground of compromise.
- Be diligent and regular with your communications.
Separations and divorces are difficult situations for the spouses and their children, to begin with. Complicating them further with co-parenting stress is just twisting the knife in the wound.
For the sake of both co-parents and the children, most of all, it’s better to be a bigger person, act mature, and look forward to raising the kids right. Still there is an opportunity to work with child custody lawyer to get better results.