What Childhood Would Be Like If Co-Parenting Didn't Exist
Holding your co-parenting to a consistently high standard can be draining. And when life doesn’t cooperate and stresses begin to mount, backsliding into conflict-laden patterns can be all too easy.
Course-correcting out of negativity ruts, however, is never so simple. No parent objectively believes that conflict is more important than their children’s health and happiness. But emotions are anything but objective, so sometimes parents will need to get creative to break free of the hold that negativity has on their co-parenting.
One exercise that parents can engage in is imagining what their kid’s childhood would be like if co-parenting didn’t exist. Ask, how would childhood change if parents completely abandoned all attempt to work together to raise their kids in a loving environment, regardless of relationship status?
One facet of childhood that would be deeply affected by a lack of co-parenting is a child’s relationship with his or her parents. Parents must work together after a split to foster strong relationships between both parents and their children. If parenting time is not split 50/50, this practice in co-parenting becomes even more vital.
Without co-parenting, if conflict is allowed to run rampant, a child’s relationship with one, if not both, of their parents will suffer. Where co-parenting places the focus on children, a lack of co-parenting creates a tit-for-tat atmosphere that fosters negative behavior such as bad-mouthing and disrespect.
Letting Kids Be Kids
Hoping for a completely stress-free childhood may be unrealistic. Homework, music competitions, and friendship drama are just a few examples of stresses that pop up during childhood. But co-parenting is a commitment to keeping a child’s life free from the stress of parental conflict.
Without that commitment, children’s worries would revolve around the strain between their parents. Rather than focus on common childhood concerns like school plays, book reports, and sleepovers, children’s focus would be uneasily placed on the turmoil that’s much closer to home.
Beyond worrying about their parents’ relationship, children are sometimes used as messengers when co-parenting breaks down. Instead of being protected from parental concerns, children are thrown into the middle as reluctant go-betweens. Without co-parenting, children may be forced to contend with issues and situations that are best left to adults.
Learning By Example
We first learn about people and the world from our families. We look to our parents for our initial lessons in behavior and communication. Through positive co-parenting, children can learn that respect and cooperation are prized and non-negotiable, a lesson they will carry with them throughout their lives.
Children will learn a much different lesson without co-parenting, when cooperation may be replaced by ungenerous bargaining and respect by disdain. Children may have to look elsewhere to learn about healthy family dynamics. Without a readily available, healthy example from their parents, children may even grow up believing that the unhealthy dynamics of parenting conflict are not only normal, but to be expected.
Committing to positive and productive communication is a daily task that can be far from easy. But going through exercises such as this one can help reinvigorate your dedication to healthy co-parenting. It may take time and considerable effort to keep your co-parenting on point, but imagining the alternative reveals why those efforts are vital for the entire family.