Overcoming Co-Parenting Obstacles
Co-parenting can be especially challenging, particularly when parenting styles differ. Even if you can't overcome all the resentments of a breakup, you can work together to create a productive co-parenting relationship. With these tips, you can stay consistent, remain calm and resolve conflicts to make joint custody work for the sake of your child.
Communicate. Never use your kids as messengers, since this can lead to conflict. Instead, commit to having open dialog with your ex. This can happen via texting, email, letters, voicemail or, if possible, face-to-face conversations. These days, there are even online platforms designed to help you and your ex organize the practical aspects of co-parenting without clashes. However you choose to do it, communication is the fundamental key to successful co-parenting.
Create common rules. As much as they fight the idea, children need structure and routine. Mealtimes, bedtimes, chores and school work need to happen consistently at about the same time every day. By running a tight ship, you and your ex can create a sense of predictability and security for your child that spans from one household to the other.
Commit to positive talk. Even though it might be music to your ears, forbid your child from talking disrespectfully about your ex. Likewise, avoid saying anything negative about your ex or their lifestyle choices. Don't burden your child by forcing him or her to take sides. You may never lose your resentment or bitterness toward your ex; however, you can learn to compartmentalize these feelings by remembering that they are your issues, and not your child's.
Agree to an extended family plan. Uncles, aunts and grandparents play an important role in a child's life. Unless you have a very good reason, don't forbid or limit their involvement in your child's life. Take some time to negotiate and agree on the role extended family members will play.
Spare them the details. Don't burden your child by telling him or her how hard your life has become since your breakup. This will only add confusion, guilt and sadness, while putting a sense of responsibility on their frail shoulders. Instead of launching into a detailed explanation of why you're struggling financially, simply explain that you have to be smart about money now. Breakups inevitably change lives. While they often lead to positive outcomes in the future, the consequences can be difficult at first. Remember, these are complex grown-up problems. As an adult, you will have to find solutions for the challenges in your life. Let your kids be kids and don't burden them unless you have to.
Fair Doesn't Always Mean Equal
After a difficult split, many parents get fixated on the notion that fair means a 50/50 share of access. In the real world, life doesn’t always work this way. If a mom travels frequently for work, it may make more senses for the child to spend more time with the father. If your ex has always taken the child to soccer practice, try to adjust your schedule to maintain this routine. While both parents deserve quality time with a child, it's also important to maintain existing routines. If this means you get slightly less than a 50/50 share, try working out a plan to recoup some of this lost time with your child, or simply make the sacrifice for the greater good.
Children can thrive after a separation and divorce if both parents are committed to doing the best they can for their children. Foundations provides Co-Parenting Counseling to help you achieve success.