At the best of times, parenting is not a smooth ride. It involves keeping your cool when you really want to … ah, never mind. Surely you have your own imagination! You know what I mean. It means a lot of forced “zen” for both Mom and Dad.
What about when parents decide they no longer get along and want to separate? The first thing we think about when we hear of such a situation is: What about the children? That’s what I thought when we heard that a close relative and her husband are going through the pain of divorce. Tough scene – forced arranged marriage, they tried to make it work – and also tried counselling, but sometimes, no matter what one does, things are just not meant to be. Finally, it seemed like the most peaceful thing to do was to go their separate ways.
Oh yes, what about the children?
As I mentioned before, parenting can be difficult even when the load is shared by a co-parent or partner. Anyone who has been through a breakup with a parent, will know how hard it can be to transition from living together to having separate lives.
Divorce may seem like a bad word. It certainly isn’t what two people who are married and love one another want. However, life has a way of throwing those curveballs and it is best to ease into that phase without lugging along the anger and frustrations that come with it. I have friends who are amicable divorcees and manage their relationship with each other and their children quite well.
How did they start embracing the co-parenting relationship? When asked, these are the tips they had to offer.
7 proven tips for successful co-parenting
Communicate honestly, but tactfully
Be honest, but try to keep your conversations relevant to parenting topics. You were in a relationship with this person, there are likely plenty of things you could talk about. Keeping the conversation focused on parenting topics will help save you both the stress of habitually unpacking issues.
Sometimes it’s best to bite your tongue completely
There will obviously be some things your co-parent does that irritate you – which is why you split in the first place, but don’t necessarily impact your kids or parenting relationship. Pick your battles with your co-parent. If something isn’t a big deal, trying to let it go might be the best way.
Determine and respect custody agreements
It can be understandably strange and frustrating – not to mention annoying – to have to deal with sharing your children’s schedule with someone who isn’t integrated in your daily routines anymore. Making a conscious choice early in the process to establish a system for agreeing upon weekly schedules will help avoid more stress than you can imagine. Stick to the agreed upon schedule to the best of your ability, and be flexible if your co-parent needs to make occasional adjustments so your co-parent is more likely to work with you if you need occasional scheduling changes. What goes around…
Make a routine out of saying and doing nice things for your co-parent
Make a point to say positive (or even just neutral) things to your kids about your co-parent. If kids won’t be seeing their other parent for more than a couple of days, encourage them to write notes or draw pictures to give the other parent. This is especially helpful if things are tense between you, but fosters healthy compassion in co-parenting relationships even when things are going well. Yes, it will take some effort, but it will be well worth it.
If you have more than one child make sure each kid gets some one-on-one time with both of you
When you are parenting multiple children from different homes, it can be very difficult to manage schedules to allow for any child to spend extended one-on-one time with you or your co-parent. It is easier to take space and time with one child when you live with the other parent, but it is important for kids of all ages to have the opportunity to spend some time alone with their parents. One-on-one time allows your kids the opportunity to discuss things with you they may feel uncomfortable discussing in front of siblings. You cannot predict whether your children will feel more comfortable talking to you or their other parent about a particular topic. It’s best to just provide the space for them to open up when they need to.
Talk to a child custody lawyer, even if things are going well
Child custody lawyers are not just for crises and conflicts. They are experts in many steps in legal situations that are similar to yours. Having someone to help navigate conversations and decisions is important even when things are going well in your co-parenting relationship.
Keep negative emotions about your co-parent away from the kids
Your kids are impacted by everything you and your co-parent say. It’s important to stay mature when you talk about your co-parent with your kids. Remember, they love both of you and they need you to help them through this.
Building and maintaining relationships is no cakewalk. But to a large extent, we can make things work by being compassionate and understanding.
What do you think?