As if your divorce hadn’t been difficult enough—now you find yourself in the situation where you still have to work side by side with your ex.
Cooperating to raise your children together, yet apart—called co-parenting—is anything but easy. But it is doable.
The most important thing you have to remember is: It’s not about you! It’s about your children! About raising them in a healthy, happy, and loving way, although you and your ex split.
How can you make that happen?
Consider seven tips that can help you to stay balanced and positive when co-parenting.
Tip #1: Learn to Communicate Effectively with Your Co-Parent
It may be that face-to-face discussions between you and your ex-spouse are very difficult, or even impossible, soon after the divorce. However, not learning to communicate effectively only hurts your children. Hence, for their sake, you must find a way to keep the lines of communication open. – How?
For the time being, do it via email or find another online co-parenting communication tool. Though, the ultimate goal is to get you both back on speaking terms.
Tip #2: Show Respect for Your Co-Parent
As hard as it may be at the beginning, refrain from talking negatively about their other parent in front of your children. As they grow up, allow your children to form their own view of each parent and your split. Don’t try to sway them to be “on your side” by bad-mouthing your ex.
Instead, make an effort to model respect for your co-parent and highlight their good qualities whenever possible. This way you can help your children to see the valuable things their other parent still contributes to their life. It will not only promote respect but encourage your children to freely speak well about them without worrying that they may hurt your feelings.
Tip #3: Honor the Parenting Time Arrangement
More than anything, your children need to feel that, despite your split, they can still count on each of their parents to be there for them on a regular basis. It helps them to feel supported, valued, and loved in a difficult time.
Changing the parenting time schedule too many times doesn’t teach them flexibility. Rather, it will only cause them to feel anxious and insecure. Thus, make every effort to honor the arrangement you agreed. And if you absolutely have no choice but to make an adjustment, discuss the matter immediately with your co-parent.
Tip #4: Be Consistent with Enforcing Rules Together
Consistency regarding behavior and discipline is an absolute must when co-parenting. It contributes heavily to your children feeling of secure, balanced, and happy. Both of you must agree on certain basic rules—bedtimes, screen time, playtime, homework, chores, etc.—and enforce them.
Resist competing for your children’s love by trying to be the “cool” parent that lets them bend the rules all the time. It’s a trap that only ends up injuring your children, causing them to feel a greater sense of instability.
Tip #5: Practice Patience and Empathy
Surely you try hard to show patience and empathy toward the process of your children getting used to this new situation. Yet, it may not be so easy to show the same patience and empathy toward your ex-spouse.
For your children’s sake, though, try your utmost to be patient and empathetic with their other parents as well. Before you do anything about a situation that may have caused annoyance—such as a late child-support payment—imagine what your children will think when they observe you dealing with this matter. Adjust your approach to demonstrate to them your reasonableness and calm when handling conflict.
Tip #6: Decide on How to Integrate New Blended Family Members
Eventually, you or your ex-spouse may enter into new relationships or get remarried. It’s important for the stability and happiness of your children that you have a plan on how to incorporate these new family members into your blended family.
Keeping your children’s well-being and happiness in mind, discuss with your co-parent how your new mates can best contribute to the family and what boundaries there should be for their involvement in child-rearing decisions. For example, until they have a stable place in the family, new partners may need to play a limited role in matters of discipline.
Tip #7: Take Time for Self-Care
In order to be the parent your children need and deserve, you must make time to take care of yourself. For example, take a few minutes each day to engage in relaxation, positive self-talk, exercising, or indulging in a hobby.
While it may be a challenge with all that you have to do due to the changes in family dynamics, practicing self-care serves as a reminder that you are a valuable and good parent. And as your children see you taking care of yourself, they learn that self-care is important for one’s health, balance, happiness, and positive contribution to the family.
Clearly, co-parenting after divorce is not an endeavor to take on lightly. It calls for good organization and the willingness to put your children’s well-being and happiness above your conflict with your ex-spouse. But what wonderful benefits it reaps when you learn to do it well!