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PARENTALK: Co-Parenting Tips For Separated Parents

PARENTALK: Co-Parenting Tips For Separated Parents

What is co-parenting?
Co-parenting is an arrangement where both the parents play an active role in their children’s lives after their divorce. This arrangement ensures that the children stay close and connected to both their parents, their needs are met and the change of relationship between their parents does not affect them. The way co-parents maintain their relationship will affect the mental and emotional health of children. It can often be tough, but if both the co-parents are focused on the children’s well-being and determined to make it work, they can come up with a working arrangement focusing on the well-being of kids.

Benefits of co-parenting for children:
When parents separate, it can be hard on the children. Leaving the differences aside and co-parenting will convince them they are more important than the differences. They need to know that their parents’ love for them will not change despite the change in situations. Here is what a cordial co-parenting relationship will facilitate:

  • Feeling of security: Insecurity is the first impact of a divorce on children, as they doubt their future and contemplate the fate of their relationship with their parents. Co-parenting will make them confident that parents love them and help them feel secure.
  • Consistent upbringing: Varying rules often confuse Children who go through custody battles and experience court-ordered visitations by non-cordial parents. It is detrimental when both parents try to bring them up in different ways and lay down different expectations from them.
  • Understanding and maturity: When children are exposed to mature ways of handling issues, they are likely to grow up to be more understanding and mature. Looking at parents who are not in love anymore, working together towards their welfare is a great life lesson if parents are cordial.
  • Better mental health: Constant conflicts can affect the children negatively and cause issues like depression or anxiety. Peaceful co-existence can help them stay happy and content.

Common issues that surface in co-parenting setups:

 If you have grudges and friction with your ex, such arrangements can get stressful. The most common issues that arise in co-parenting setups are:

  • Mistrust in each other’s parenting abilities
  • Conflicts in terms of parenting methods
  • External factors such as your ex’s family or friends that you think may hurt the child
  • Inability to think past personal resentments with the ex-spouse
  • Financial issues
  • Difficulty in making shared decisions

 How to make co-parenting work?

 Developing a working relationship with someone who is associated with all the bitterness in your life will be tough but staying calm and consistent is the key.

 Here are some tips that can help you make it work:

 Keep your past relationship separate from the present situation: If you wish for co-parenting to work, set the bitterness aside. Look at your relationship with your ex as a whole new relationship. This new relationship needs to be about the children’s wellbeing and the past differences need to be left in the past. It may be a need for you to frown when you see your ex, but it will harm the kids and you need to refrain from doing so.

 Forgetting the anger and hurt is the toughest part of co-parenting. Do not rush into it. Take your time to move on and think beyond such feelings because it is the most crucial aspect of making co-parenting work for all of you.

 Be conscious about your behavior: It may be long before you move on from the bitterness, but parenting can’t wait. Till you get there, be kind to yourself and accept that it is ok to resent someone who made it unpleasant for you. However, do not let these emotions govern how you behave. Focus on your goal, i.e. your child’s well-being, and act accordingly. Venting all the hurt in front of the children will not help anyone and you will feel worse.

 Vent elsewhere: Do not vent to the child. For them, it is a loved parent that you are talking about and negative words will only make them feel stuck. Look for a friend, family member, or a therapist to talk to. You can also look for alternate ways like exercise, meditation, art, etc. to feel better.

 Let your child distract you from negative actions: Keeping your goal in mind can help you to prevent yourself from acting negatively. Remember why you started this journey? Your child’s interests will be hampered if you dwell on your resentment. If you feel that anger will overpower you, take a break and think about your child.

 Don’t use the child as a messenger: If you have an issue with the parenting style of your ex-partner, talk to them directly. Bringing the child into relationship issues will make them feel frustrated and sad.

 Don’t influence the child’s relationship with the other parent: Do not say negative things about your ex or force your child to choose a favorite parent. Let them have their relationship without dictating the terms.

Improve your communication with the co-parent: In the beginning, it may seem like you cannot talk to your ex without yelling your lungs out. However, it is all about how you see it. If you see it as a way to benefit your child, you will soon get there. You and your ex-partner can also attend a co-parenting class together at a therapist/counselor’s office to know what to expect and learn how to communicate better. If meeting each other triggers you, take the communication over phone calls or texts. Take the path that seems easiest to reach the goal of conflict-free communication.

Be respectful and neutral: Think of this new relationship with your co-parent as that with a business partner. You both have a common goal and you must be cordial and respectful to each other. Do not bring in old instances or be sarcastic, it will not help anyone. Instead of making demands or orders, request. “Could you spend the day with the child” is a better statement than “Pick the child from school, I need to go somewhere”.

Ignore if they try to push you off the edge: Sometimes you may feel as if your ex is consciously trying to trigger you. Do not overreact. You can gently tell them to back off or end that particular conversation. Remember, these communications are required only till your child turns an adult.

Discuss the rules of upbringing: You do not need to have identical rules across both households. Both can parent the way they want but be consistent with the major rules such as off-limit practices, homework rules, curfew times, etc. To maintain consistency in the way you parent, discuss some common rules that both of you must adhere to. This is to eliminate discrepancies and your child will not be confused. For instance, you may decide not to give the child access to a motor vehicle or a cell phone before they turn 18. A discussion around this will allow both of you to maintain a common stance while talking to the child.

Do not try to project yourself as the better parent by bending the rules: Remember, this is not a competition. Work on your insecurities but do not bend the rules only to be seen as the cool parent. If the parents are constantly competing against each other, children may try to take advantage of the situation by choosing what benefits them. This may lead them to become selfish or manipulative.

Do not show the child that you are reluctant to talk to the other parent: Your child will inevitably reach an age where they will try to work around the rules. It is thus important to show them that both the parents may live separately but are a united front. This will help you navigate the tough stages of their growing up.

Maintain a consistent routine: Meals, bedtimes, and studies need to follow more or less the same routine in both houses. This will avoid disruptions when the child visits the other parent.

Be on the same page with respect to education: Homework rules, and study timings need to be discussed and maintained consistently. Also, discuss other educational commitments like extra classes, school events, etc. Inform the arrangement at the school as well. Both the parents must try to attend school events.

Make compromises and let go of the small things: It is futile to expect everything to go 100% identical in both houses. Let go of the small disagreements and value each other’s opinions. Be flexible and handle difficult circumstances with maturity.

How to get the child ready for visitation:

It can be tough on the child to leave the space they live in every day to go to another place. Communicate the arrangement in advance and remind them 1-2 days before the visit. Help them pack their bags well in time so they don’t forget anything important. Let them know that they can talk to you anytime when at the other parent’s place. However, avoid calling to let them have uninterrupted time with them. Transitions can be difficult, allow the time and space to process the change.

What to do if the child refuses to go:

Children may sometimes resist transitions and it can get heartbreaking for the parents. It is a good idea to find the cause. Give the child time and space to deal with their feelings. Do not force them. Discuss the probable reason with your ex-partner and come up with a solution.

You do not have to beat yourself over your inability to be comfortable with your ex. While you are planning to cross those tough miles for your child, do not forget to be kind to yourself. Take it slow and overcome the challenges that this new journey poses with patience.

All the best!



Smriti is a freelance content writer and an avid reader. She quit her 6 year-long IT career to embrace her love for writing. She writes content across genres and takes pride in her ability to research and carve magic with words. She passionately writes about parenting and is currently working on her book. When not writing or reading, she can be seen running behind any of her 2 kids or learning Deutsch.

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