Co-parenting is a modern term in the divorce world. When my parents walked out of the divorce court, they never communicated with each other ever again, and certainly not about me. Co-parenting implies cooperation and dialogue. The former spouses are no longer marriage partners but are so in raising their children.
Society today may be more complex with so many choices, or parents like mine did not consider the need to discuss children with each other post-divorce. Custody is usually joint, which means both parents have the right to decide what schools and activities their children will attend.
Cooperative Parenting Tips For Success:
There are ways to make co-parenting easier for the parents and more effective for the kids. Consider having a regularly scheduled meeting, perhaps monthly, to discuss issues or activities of the kids. Have an agenda, just as you would for a conference at work.
If one parent veers off course into blame or other toxic areas, calmly steer them back to the discussed topic, “We were talking about Jane’s wish to change schools….” Keep emotion out of the discussion and treat the other parent as you would an excitable co-worker. These meetings do not have to be in person if it is difficult to be in their presence. Using Skype or the phone is fine, even if they only live a few streets away.
Co-parenting is easier when both are on the same page and do not feel left out of anything. There are various online calendars and apps which let each parent view and add activities or events in the youngsters’ lives. It is easy to put dance recitals, sports tournaments, and school concerts into a schedule. This way one parent cannot blame the other one for not notifying them of something. Remember to keep grandparents up-to-date on the kids’ events so they can attend.
Some parents have a notebook that goes back and forth between homes, which is particularly helpful with young children. This is good when a child has asthma or a food allergy so both know when an inhaler or Epi-pen was administered. This also is useful for medical conditions like seizures. If there are incidents at school or other information that needs to be relayed, the notebook is another method of communication.
An important part of co-parenting is setting up consistent rules, routines, and consequences in both homes. Kids require constancy in their topsy-turvy world. Going to bed and eating meals at vastly different times is like having chronic jet lag. They feel more secure with a routine, which is better for their well-being. This also avoids pitting one parent against the other one. No, “Dad lets me go to bed at 11, or Mom lets me watch TV all day.” Kids realize that their parents are on the same team and are less likely to try and get away with things when rules are consistent.
Work together when dividing up holidays. Some parents have the kids for part of the day, and others trade holidays on alternate years. There may be new step-siblings to work a holiday schedule around who also have to share them with another parent. Some co-parents have a get-together with new partners and grandparents and do okay in each other’s company. See what works out best in your situation.
The don’ts of co-parenting can mostly be avoided when thinking of what is in the children’s best interest. Yes, it is hard to put one’s ego aside or not to take part in a revenge fantasy. Getting back at an ex through the children is not healthy and can backfire. One father took his sons to a show during the divorce that he knew his wife would get angry about. The boys were upset seeing an adult-themed play with scantily clad women, and they told the interim psychologist, who put a stop to this behavior. Later they discussed this and more with the Custody Evaluator. The mother ended up with physical custody, and the father was not granted any overnights with visitation.
If co-parenting is difficult, consider having a third party handle all communication between you. One woman had her friend edit out any mean comments from her ex-husband’s e-mails and then send to her. Others have used a mediator or another professional to care for all messages and communication between co-parents. There is even an online company that does this too. Co-parenting is a learning process and generally gets easier as time goes by.