Co-parenting with your ex won’t always be easy, but it can be successful with a strategy and collaborative rules set forth at the beginning of this new arrangement.
These five tips can help you understand how to begin co-parenting or improve a current co-parenting situation. Divorce and the end of married family life is never 100% easy. There are going to be snags and setbacks. But learning to set aside personal conflicts with your ex and being civil in front of your children will help ensure that they grow up happier and healthier.
Tip 1. Establish Expectations and Keep Lines of Communication Open for Effective Co-Parenting
Be realistic about your strengths and limitations. If in-person discussions with your co-parent are not possible due to conflict and anger, agree that speaking in-person might not be the wisest choice. You may have to agree to use other means of communication, such as texting or emailing.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure communication about your children’s welfare remains open. The end goal is to get back on speaking terms, as it sends a positive message to your children that you can communicate civilly as their loving parents.
Tip 2. Your Children’s Needs Should Always Come First
Any and all personal feelings about your ex should be left at the door. Your children’s feelings come before yours. Even if your ex is not showing restraint on their behavior, pull yourself together for your kids. If this is hard to do because of an exceptionally bad divorce, then turn to the guidance of a trained therapist or counselor that deals with these cases. Your children are impressionable and vulnerable, and any negative behavior now may lead to possible issues that could affect their adult lives. As a parent, you should strive to maintain as much normalcy as possible during this difficult time in your life.
Tip 3. Establish a Consistent Parenting Schedule
Children need to feel that they can count on being with their parents on a regular basis and not have that changed at the last minute. Set holiday, weekend, and summer schedules in the beginning and stick with it. Of course, emergencies will come up, but try to keep any changes to emergencies only. Plan personal social events and travel around the parenting schedule.
Tip 4. Don’t Badmouth Your Ex in Front of Your Children
Do not speak negatively about your ex in front of your children. It’s best to keep any outward, negative words about your ex for when you are with a trusted family member, or your counselor. Kids see themselves in their parents. If they are forced to hear how horrible the other parent is and all of their other parent’s negative attributes, they may project those feelings on themselves and begin to believe that you may see the negative in them too. When speaking in front of children, practice one of the Golden Rules: ‘If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’
Tip 5. Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself
These tips are meant to help you guide your children through a difficult time. But you need to take care of yourself too. This is a challenging time in your life, so you can’t forget your own self-care. You are going to naturally have feelings of self-doubt and disconnection. Take a little time just for yourself every day, to read a book, talk to a friend, meditate, or do whatever activity there is that makes you feel good and grounds you. This is imperative to give you the security you need to be there for your children and help you move forward in your new life.