How can you make co-parenting work? Many parents have the best intentions of maintaining a civilized relationship for the sake of their children. Yet for many, it’s an extremely testing process. What if you find it difficult to communicate? What if every attempt to do so results in conflict?
Naturally, separation and divorce is a stressful process for the entire family. Emotions such as resentment, guilt, and regret are often bubbling below the surface. Unfortunately, for many, these feelings never completely disappear.
Thankfully, as well as co-parenting classes, there are some co-parenting rules that many people find helpful, allowing parents to co-parent separately or together.
What is Co-Parenting?
Co-parenting also referred to as shared or joint parenting is the collaboration of two separated parents in raising their children. In order to succeed it relies on good communication and reciprocal interactions between both parties.
Often co-parenting can be a difficult process, due to feelings of hurt and resentment. Sometimes parents may not see eye-to-eye on issues like discipline, or may not believe the other parties parenting is healthy.
These common disagreements can often strain an already difficult relationship. For these reasons, it’s essential that both parents try to maintain the focus on the health and wellbeing of their children.
With that said, here are some effective co-parenting rules that will help create a positive parenting experience for your children.
Co-Parenting Rules for Successful Parenting
#1 Communicate Openly with Your Ex
Maintaining open communication with your ex-partner is an essential part of the co-parenting process. Both parents need to be honest with each other and be willing to discuss things like discipline, financial matters, holidays and everything in between.
The reality is that the more open and detailed the communication is, the less likely that there will be any confusion and conflict.
Note that this isn’t just about talking, but communication. Many couples find speaking to one another and face-to-face interactions almost impossible. The good news is that there are many modes of communication such as phone, text, email and even instant messenger.
There’s also communication software too, specially designed for co-parenting and families going through a divorce. One popular example is called Our Family Wizard – this is essentially a scheduling tool that parents can use to share information and maintain excellent communication, even when the relationship is frayed.
#2 Agree to a Routine & Stick to It
In order to excel, all kids need structure in their life, so that means both parents need to create and agree upon a set routine. This means you should have a detailed conversation about bedtime, meal times, screen time and chores.
It’s important for both parents to be consistent and stick to the routine agreed on, this provides children with a sense of security.
#3 Never Argue in front of the Kids
The majority of parents that are separated rarely see each other and when they do it’s typically just for a few short minutes a couple of times each week. Therefore, during these short meetings do you best to hold your tongue and refrain from arguing in front of the kids.
Kids are very receptive to a conflict between parents, so they may be listening even if you think they aren’t. It can be very emotionally troubling for them to hear their parents arguing and can potentially lead to internal conflicts.
Therefore, do your best to ensure any disagreements with your partner are discussed privately and not in the presence of your children.
#4 Don’t Critique Your Ex to your Children
Although it may be tempting, you should avoid criticizing or discussing emotionally hot topics about your ex with your children. This can create extreme conflicts in your child and they can often feel pressurized to take sides.
Making your child aware of your negative feelings may encourage them to get involved in your conflicts, which can cause children stress and insecurity.
#5 Allow your Kids to Decide
If your children are old enough to make their own decisions, you should allow them to consider their options. For example, if your ex has invited them to Thanksgiving celebration but you want them to attend your sisters birthday party, let them decide which even they would prefer to attend.
Often, parents try to persuade them to choose a certain option, which can often make children feel pressurized and guilty if they say no. Even if you feel a little jealous about the decision they make, it’s essential that you put your child’s wellbeing before your own feelings.
#6 Agree on Extended Family Boundaries
When you both begin to move on with your lives and form new relationships, it’s common for both parties to feel some level of anxiety. Curiosity and suspicion of this new partner are only natural, especially since they are probably going to be around your children at some point.
For this reason, make a plan between you and your ex before the day arrives. Discuss and make agreements on the role they will play and the type of access they will have around your children. That way, when the time comes any worries you have will be lessened.
#7 Praise Your Ex to Your Child
Although it may be tough, it’s important to make your child aware of your ex-partners positive traits, as well as your own. This will help your child understand that both of you have strengths and weaknesses and that they should recognize and appreciate that.
For instance, you may say to them “your Dad is really good at teaching you maths, but I’m better at taking care of you when you’re ill”. This type of reasoning also helps kids appreciate the differences between their parents.
#8 Respect Eachothers Time
If you want you and the kids to attend an event but it falls on a date or time they are scheduled to be with your ex, make sure to ask permission before you re-schedule. This respect for there time is essential to maintaining a healthy and positive co-parenting relationship.
#9 Remain Neutral if Your Parents Complain
If your children bad mouth your ex, don’t jump the gun straight away. It’s important to remain calm and neutral. If you begin encouraging them to be negative about their parent research shows that in the long term they are more likely to distrust you.
#10 Try Spending Time Together
The one thing that kids miss out on when their parents separate is spending time together as a family. Therefore, if you can you should try to organize a day out together some time. This will be entirely for your children’s benefit but can really make them feel like they aren’t missing out on the unity other families have.
How can you do this? A day out at the zoo or local theme park would be great. You could even host a simple dinner party every so often. You don’t have to be friends or put on a performance for your ex, simply being together once in a while will suffice and do wonders for the kids.
It’s not exactly a co-parenting rule but can certainly go a long way to creating a healthy parenting environment.