Keys of Success for Co-Parenting
The end of a marriage is rife with stress and emotion. Relationships are what bind us to one another, and the end of one can be an extremely stressful time, even in the best of scenarios. Ending a relationship or marriage when children are involved adds a new layer of complexity to the process. When children are involved, communication between the former partners must continue. This can make moving on difficult, but it can be done, and co-parenting best practices include being able to make decisions that are in the best interests of the children. The best interests of the children, simply put, are two parents who can work together in a friendly, civil manner to co-parent effectively.
What is Co-parenting?
Co-parenting is the skill of working with your former spouse, lover or partner, to create a safe and loving environment for your mutual child or children. Co-parenting simply means that two parents work together, while not in a committed relationship, in the best interests of the child. When looking at co-parenting in these restricted terms, it should be easy to see how it can be effective and beneficial.
Co-parenting Best Practices
The keys of success for co-parenting can vary among individuals, which is the first thing to remember in the grand scheme of parenting. Not every set-up will work for every family, and it is important for both parents to play to the strengths of the other parent—not their weaknesses. There are, however, a few co-parenting best practices that work in most situations and they should be considered before getting too personal.
When a divorce happens, allow the courts to do what they are set up to do. Sure, it seems ideal for two parents to work out child agreements themselves, but that is not always an option and many divorced parents find it easier and more amicable to work within the constraints of a court agreement. Sit down with your ex and discuss your expectations for splitting childcare, then allow the courts to do the rest. Having a legal custody plan can help both parents work together more effectively.
Work with your co-parent to keep schedules the same, within reason. Routines are important for child development, so work with your co-parent to lay down expectations for important routines, such as bedtimes, meal times and after-school routines. Keeping your child on schedule with your co-parent will make for a more enjoyable experience all around. You and your co-parent should be able to work together on this issue.
Let go a little. Understand that your co-parent has your child’s best interests at heart too, and not all activities done with the child need to be exactly the same. Your child’s health and discipline is your business; however, the way your co-parent gets the child ready for school is not. Pick your battles and work with your former partner.
When co-parenting is difficult and it seems like it simply cannot be done, you can utilize some tips to ensure you are making the best decisions for your children, and acting in a way that illustrates that both you and your former partner love them. Follow these tips to ensure co-parenting goes smoothly.
1. If you feel like you cannot have a civil conversation with your ex, use an alternate means of communication, but never use the children as your messenger. Send an e-mail that covers what you need to talk about. This informal form of communication can help you discuss logistics of childcare without delving into “relationship issues” and discussing your anger towards your former partner.
2. Find someone to vent to if you feel angry. A therapist, a trusted friend or a family member can serve as a sounding board when you are most frustrated. Getting those feelings out, when your children aren’t within earshot, can help you co-parent with your ex more effectively.
3. Word your conversations as requests instead of demands, and consider your ex’s opinion. Instead of saying “I need you to pick up John at 3 pm,” ask “Could you pick up John at 3 pm?” The slight change in wording can make the entire conversation go much smoother and will avoid misinterpretation of the conversation.
Erica L. Fener, Ph.D., is Vice President, Business Development Strategy and Analysis at Progressus Therapy (http://www.progressustherapy.com/) a leading provider of therapy employment, including school-based therapy and early intervention services.
NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.
Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.