Co-parenting can seem like an impossible challenge to you after a divorce or the end of your relationship with the child’s other parent. While you are still both parenting the children, you are now doing so from separate homes and, in many ways, separate lives. This can lead to challenges and other issues you may have never experienced when you were living with your ex and raising the children under the same roof together.
The good news is that you can still raise healthy and happy children together with your ex in this new style of arrangement, often known as “co-parenting.” Whether you have been trying to co-parent for some time or just started recently, here are some things to keep in mind.
Always Put the Needs of Your Kids First
Putting your kids’ needs first can be more difficult than it sounds. You may not realize that some of your child’s needs have been put on the backburner if you are having real trouble with your ex and/or the relationship between you ended on a very sour note. Your best bet is to have a serious conversation with your ex about what your child’s needs are and how those always need to be the focus. If you are encountering resistance, explain to your ex that your relationship, as it was, is now over, and the focus needs to be on the new co-parenting relationship for the sake of the kids.
Another approach that may work here is always focusing your communications with your ex on the kids. If your ex tries to introduce topics that have nothing to do with the kids, don’t engage them. Simply remind them that you are here to discuss the kids and nothing else. In many cases, a co-parent who keeps trying to bring up non-child-related topics but is always shut down will eventually give up on that tactic because they are not getting the satisfaction they seek from an argument.
Stay on the Same Page for the Big Decisions
It’s best if you and your co-parent can make big decisions for your child, such as those about their education, medical care and religion, together. If your co-parent has reservations about a big decision, give them the chance to explain it from their side and try to see it from their point of view instead of just immediately reacting. They should extend the same approach to you. If all else fails, you may need the help of an attorney as you may have to go to court to have the judge decide the matter for you. Never make a big decision on your own if you and your co-parent both have equal decision-making authority over the children under your parenting plan.
Decide How to Handle New Partners
When a new romantic interest enters your life or your co-parent’s life, it can cause issues if you do not establish what type of role the new person will have with the kids. Of course, this doesn’t usually apply to a few dates with a new person. Normally, role establishment needs to be done when the relationship with the new person is becoming serious and they will have more contact with your kids.
It is easier to put your differences with your ex aside when you both view co-parenting for what it is: a lifelong commitment. Have a real and honest discussion with your ex about how your actions and behavior will impact your kids so you can both get on the same page when it comes to parenting together.