So, you couldn’t resolve your marital issues and got divorced.
But now you’ve agreed to co-parent your children.
Make no mistake, co-parenting will be harder than the divorce.
“This isn’t helpful,” you may say. – Oh, but it is.
In order to co-parent successfully, you first have to give yourself a reality check. You have to recognize that it will be a big challenge. You and your ex may not be sharing homes anymore, but you’re sharing children. To co-parent, you have to put your differences aside because you’ll have to communicate – better than you did during your marriage.
Your success will depend much on your focus.
Having a healthy relationship with both parents is of vital importance to your children’s well-being, even more so after a divorce. It’s okay for you to feel hurt and angry with your ex-spouse, but that should in no way control your actions when it comes to your children.
Peacefully cooperating with your ex is a demonstration of love for your children. It shows that you want to see the situation from their perspective – their feelings, their concerns, their needs.
But if you end up fighting over what you want because you just can’t stand seeing your ex “win,” you’ve lost your focus. Putting your focus on a battle with your ex will only make your children lose.
Focusing on Your Children’s Needs = Success!
What do your children need?
Time and Love
- Listen to your children’s concerns and worries. They may wonder about where they’ll spend the holidays, who will come on their class trip, or if they’ll have to quit some activities they like.
- Do your best to provide them with a healthy, conflict-free environment. Make both of your places feel like home for them.
- Be understanding during the transition from the other parent’s house to yours. Allow them time to warm up.
Why it leads to success: It assures your children that you still love them, that you support them, and that your relationship with them will not change. It lets them know that despite what your feelings may be toward your ex, your focus is completely on them.
Structure and Balance
- Keep similar routines in both homes – consistent bedtime, mealtimes, and playtime. Respect the other parent’s wishes. The more you can agree on, the better.
- Don’t give in to feeling guilty for not being in your children’s lives full-time. That can lead to overindulgence.
- Stay balanced and provide fun, structure, and predictability. But resist trying to be the “fun” parent, outshining your ex.
Why it leads to success: You’ll avoid raising self-centered, narcissistic, disobedient, resentful, or downright hostile children. It will help them to become well-adjusted and empathetic.
Rules and Discipline
- Children need consistency. Boundaries and rules that are agreed upon by both parents must be enforced by both.
- The same goes for discipline. When your children break a rule in one home and lose a privilege, the other parent has to honor that consequence, too.
Why it leads to success: Consistent rules and discipline in both households will give your children stability and make them feel more secure.
Behavior Guidelines and Parental Examples
- Your children’s relationship with both of you must be supported and encouraged. Keep your negative feelings about your ex to yourself. Don’t vent or say hurtful things about them.
- Respect must remain paramount. Don’t let your children criticize the other parent, nor let them pit you against each other.
- Do not burden your children. Never put them in the middle. You must communicate directly, not through your children.
Why it leads to success: It will preserve a strong relationship between your children and both of you. Which, in turn, helps your children feel empowered and believe in their own strengths and abilities.