Co-parenting: Tips to Make it Work
Chances are you know someone whose divorce went pretty smoothly. They split up. The divorce was finalized. The children seemed to adjust well. They speak kindly to each other. They may even sit together at their children’s school functions!!!
Want to have that kind of relationship after a divorce? Then make a co-parenting commitment with your ex! Co-parenting is probably the hardest thing to do after you get divorced. You probably couldn’t agree on how to raise your kids when you were married. How on earth are you going to raise healthy, functional children now that you’re divorced?
Co-parenting is possible, but rarely easy. It takes a commitment from both parties to make it work. Making shared decisions, interacting with each other at drop-offs, or just speaking to the person you wish was completely out of your life can cause a great deal of stress and even anxiety or anger. But to make sure that your children develop healthy relationships and adjust to the divorce as smoothly as possible, co-parenting is a must.
3 Tips to Make Co-Parenting Work
- Put your children first. You need to begin by looking at your relationship with your ex from a new perspective. While your marriage is over, your relationship with your ex is not. Begin by looking at your relationship with your ex only in terms of your children. All of the conflicts that caused the divorce should no longer be part of the equation. This will be difficult, but it is vital to establishing a good co-parenting relationship. Effective co-parenting puts your children’s needs ahead of your own. And what your children need is a good relationship with both of their parents.
- Don’t put your children in the middle. While you may never fully get over the hurt from your divorce, you need to keep those feelings to yourself and share them only with your personal support system—not your children. Your feelings are your issues, not your children’s.
1) Never use your children as messengers. When you have something you need to tell your ex, you need to do it yourself. Having trouble speaking to your ex? Try text or email.
2) Never say negative things about your ex to your children or in front of them. Never make your children try to choose between their parents. While you may no longer love your ex, your children still love both of their parents.
- Aim for consistency. The best co-parenting examples involve households that maintain consistent rules and expectations at each home. While you don’t have to agree on everything, having a basic set of rules between households will reduce the stress and confusion your children feel having to split their time between two households. Aim for establishing rules on homework, curfews, and off-limit activities for your children. Also, you want to try to have similar systems of consequences. And when you can, you want to try to maintain some consistency in your children’s schedules. Start with things like meal time, homework time, and bed time. A consistent schedule will go a long way in helping your children adjust to the divorce.
The key to co-parenting is to put your feelings aside and focus on your children’s needs. Co-parenting isn’t easy and won’t go smoothly all of the time, but if you keep your new relationship with your ex 100% focused on your children, you’ll find that you just may end up with a co-parenting relationship that others envy. But if you try these tips and still struggle dealing with your ex, it might be time to seek the help of a trained professional.
Read about our Family Counseling services to see how a Family Counselor can help you and your ex put aside your differences in order to help your child adjust to the divorce as well as possible. We also offer Child Counseling where a Child Counselor will work individually with your child to teach them to express feelings and cope with the changes following the separation and divorce.