Co-Parenting After Divorce
The definition of co-parenting is a process where two parents work together to raise a child/children even though they are divorced or separated and no longer live together. An example of co-parenting is when a divorced mother and father share legal and physical custody of their child.
Unless there is a history of addiction or abuse, having both parents play an active role in a child’s life is the best way to ensure that all of your child’s needs are met and it also enables them to maintain a close relationship with both of their parents.
A child should be given the freedom to love both of their parents, and should be encouraged to do so.
Any views that a parent may have of their ex has to be put aside for the sake of their child/children.
So to truly co-parent can be easier said than done...but I'll attempt to give some tips below!
Successful co-parenting means that both parents focus on what’s best for the children, and together you use this focus to motivate your actions.
A child benefits in lots of ways from successful co-parenting:
They will be able to see that they are more important than the conflict that ended your marriage — and be able to understand that your love for them will always be there despite changing circumstances.
It is well documented that kids whose divorced parents have a cooperative relationship:
Feel secure. When confident of the love of both parents, kids adjust more quickly and easily to divorce and new living situations, and have better self-esteem.
Benefit from consistency. Co-parenting fosters similar rules, discipline, and rewards between households, so children know what to expect, and what’s expected of them.
Better understand problem solving. Children who see their parents continuing to work together are more likely to learn how to effectively and peacefully solve problems themselves.
Have a healthy example to follow. By cooperating with the other parent, you are establishing a life pattern your children can carry into the future to build and maintain stronger relationships.
Are mentally and emotionally healthier. Children exposed to conflict between co-parents are more likely to develop issues such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD.
My tips for successful co-parenting
Set hurt and anger aside
Whatever split you and your ex up is nothing to do with your children and shouldn’t influence any of your decisions regarding them
The needs of your children have to take priority over your own needs - so any hurt/anger/resentment/trust issues have to take a back seat
Remember that your child’s wellbeing, happiness, and security are the most important things here to consider
Accept what you can’t change, and focus on what you can - but always for the good of your children
You will never be able to change your ex
You can only control your own thoughts, feelings, and actions
Find a place to vent that is away from your children’s ears - exercise, friends, music etc
Keep any issues that you have with your ex to yourself - NEVER say anything negative in front of or to your children about their other parent
Remember that you are communicating with your ex for the benefit of your child/children
And definitely remember that the children, your sanity, and your integrity are NON-NEGOTIABLE…the only person you can control is yourself
Set boundaries and stick to them
Choose communication channels that work for both of you, not just one of you, and stick to them e.g email for non urgent, and text for anything within 24 hours (for example)
Create a parenting plan together, taking into consideration the other parent's views too. This will form some of the boundaries
Respect that both of you may have different rules in their homes….that’s ok as long as everyone, especially the child, is clear on them
Respect each others boundaries especially in front of the kids
Stand by your boundaries when they are tested…and they will be!
Improve communication with your ex
Peaceful, consistent, and purposeful communication is essential for co-parenting
Remember that it starts with your mindset - your child is the priority - a negative mindset will undoubtedly give a negative conversation, and equally the opposite for a positive mindset…
Conduct yourself with dignity - Sometimes a response can be an emotional one. Wait. Wait until you’ve had time to digest and think of other viewpoints etc
Give the other parent the benefit of the doubt - believe that they also have your child’s best interests at heart, although you may feel that their communication may not
Use appropriate communication - it’s not always necessary to meet
Treat co-parenting like a business (the business being your child’s wellbeing)
Create a parenting plan together - you never know when you might need it and it can provide guidance when things get tough
Remove any emotion that you feel to do with what happened between you and your ex where possible
Make requests rather than statements (which can be interpreted as demands). Try to frame as much as possible as a request
Listen - we have 2 ears for a reason! Listening is a strength. It doesn’t necessarily signify approval
Respect your ex (for your child’s sake) - they are your child’s parent too, and they care about them
Show restraint - accept that you are going to be connected together for a lot of years…at least through your child’s childhood. Learn to be numb in areas that would have triggered you in the past
Commit to regular communication with each other - regular updates show your children that you are united as their parents
Ask your ex’s opinion on things - this can jump start conversation and shows that you value their input and respect them as your child’s parent
Apologise where needed
Don’t always assume that things will be rosy…emotions change at different times
Focus on the matter in hand and don’t let other things cloud the conversations or your judgement
Remember - it is very rare for parents to remain on good terms at all times…although it is possible!
Aim for consistency
Try and be consistent on rules where possible - both at home and out and about. This doesn’t mean that they have to be exactly the same (as per above), but generally in line will help in the long run. It helps a child to know where they stand too
Aim for similar principles on discipline. Ensure consequences are similar and for similar things. Both parents also need to follow through with any discipline. This applies for good behaviour too, and things like pocket money
Align on schedules - like homework times, bed time, meals etc. All of this helps a child to adjust to their living in 2 homes and helps them to feel safe and secure
Make important decisions together e.g medical ones, education needs, financial constraints etc. You may allocate things to a certain parent, but you must commit to keeping the other parent in the loop on these things
Resolve disagreements as soon as possible as they come up
To make co-parenting work successfully you will need to show respect to each other and have respect of each other - this includes keeping the other parent in the loop with regard to things that are relevant to your child e.g school, reports, doctors, clubs, parties etc. And be as flexible as possible - this can go a long way….especially given that you will undoubtedly need it the other way at some point!
Keep talking to each other. Don’t let things fester. And definitely do not discuss in front of your kids. Be open to the idea of a 3rd party helping if you can’t resolve something amicably between you
Choose your battles - some are worth it, others are not. For example…a late night is not something to fall out over!
Be prepared to compromise. The 2 of you are not together for a reason, and inevitably you won’t agree on everything. You need to be prepared to give as well as take….and you will need to accept your ex’s views sometimes, even if they are different to your own
Make transitions as smooth and uneventful as possible
Always drop off rather than pick up. This is psychologically proved to be better for a child as you won’t be in danger of interrupting an important activity to them. It’s also a sign of “permission” to go and have fun with their other parent from the parent that is dropping them off
Help the child/children to prepare both physically and mentally for the changeover. Remind them a day or 2 beforehand that they are going to their other parent’s house. Make it exciting for them. Encourage them to pack anything that they need e.g important sleep comforters
When they return to you, keep things calm and low key for a couple of hours. Try not to throw them straight in at the deep end with arrangements
Try and keep a set of the basics in both of their homes to help them feel comfortable and minimise any packing needed
Set a routine for them around the transition. Children thrive on routines!
And most of all, be prepared to Accept that co-parenting doesn’t always work for people
If your efforts to co-parent in a healthy way consistently end up in chaos and distress, you may need to consider another type of parenting - for example “parallel parenting”
Always think about how your co-parenting arrangement is affecting your children? Your sanity? Your ability to stay in integrity without feeling crazed by your ex?
If you are holding up your end of the deal but are continually undermined or thrown off-course by your ex, it may be time to consider a new arrangement in the best interest of your children and your own sanity.
If you need to talk through how you could get to a successful co-parenting relationship, or you need support with a parenting plan, or anything to set a structure up that works for you and your children - please email on email@example.com or call Emily on 07814009408.