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Building Blocks to Effective Co-Parenting

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Everyone has their own ideas about child-rearing. For parents who are no longer in a relationship, the transition to raising children together while separated is challenging. It requires skills like communication and flexibility, which can be difficult at the best of times. Toss in intense emotions, a seismic shift to routines, and new living arrangements, and you are working through layers of complexity. Learning to work together with your co-parent is a skill you can learn over time. With the right approach and plenty of patience, you and your co-parent can set your differences aside and create an environment where your child(ren) can thrive. 

So, What is Co-Parenting? 

There are different methods for parenting after a breakup. Co-parenting is an option for parents who can maintain functional interactions after separation. For relationships that were toxic or abusive, parallel parenting may be a better option. You know your relationship’s ins and outs and must make the healthiest decision for you and your kids.

Co-parenting involves the maintenance of a parenting partnership to provide a secure and stable environment for children after divorce or separation. That may be primary care or shared care, and the goal is for both parents work together to make mutual decisions for the child’s well-being.

Benefits of Co-Parenting

The period of separation can be a time of turmoil for your child. They may be afraid that the change in family structure will oust them from their place in the family or cause their parents to love them less. Presenting a united front with your co-parent can ease stress and anxiety, improve your child’s sense of belonging, and show in a concrete way their place in your family is unwavering. Kids benefit from knowing they are secure in their parent’s love. Studies and research show that exposure to frequent parental conflict can lead to children developing psychological, physical, and behavioral problems. Establishing a solid co-parenting relationship eases tension and reduces friction between parents, which benefits everyone’s mental health. 

 

Tips for Building an Effective Co-Parenting Partnership 

Everyone has their own opinions and techniques for parenting. Agreeing on choices for your children is difficult when there is a clash in beliefs and values. But with the right approach, you can tackle the big and small challenges together, showing your child they have a reliable safety net and effective support team. 

Rebuild a foundation of trust. 

After separating, a degree of trust may be lost between parents. It takes time, but you can begin rebuilding a foundation of trust based on your shared understanding that your child’s well-being takes priority regardless of how you feel towards one another. Rather than focusing on differences in parenting styles, focus on your common goal; to raise healthy, well-adjusted kids even if your paths look different. Once you’ve established this goal, all decisions should stem from it. Giving autonomy is a crucial part of maintaining trust; don’t go looking for problems with your co-parent’s household because you’ll find plenty. Judgment is human nature, and it’s normal to find things you’d do differently. It’s not okay to police how they run their house unless your child is in danger. Give autonomy and pick your battles while trusting you both want what’s best for your child.

Keep the decision-making process private. 

As you work through the best ways to approach parenting, remember that your child does not need to know what happens behind the scenes. Avoid questioning your co-parent’s decisions in front of your child, and address the concern privately. While it’s crucial to involve and talk to your child about how decisions will impact them, they do not need to witness messy decision-making. Shielding them from the process isn’t dishonest; it’s a powerful way to maintain the solid structure kids need to feel secure. 

Don’t speak negatively about your child’s parent. 

While you may do your best to resolve disagreements with your co-parent, sometimes conflict is inevitable. Regardless of the disputes between you and your co-parent, resist the urge to speak badly about them in front of your child. Giving your child negative or conflicting messages about their other parent only adds uncertainty and confusion. Furthermore, speaking badly about your co-parent can make your child feel like they need to pick a side. Protect your child from trying to interpret and mediate your relationship with their other parent by keeping your tone about your him or her positive or neutral. 

Focus on your kids during communications. 

Consistent communication is a must-have to keep your child’s schedule running smoothly between households. Keep in mind, effective communication should resolve conflicts, not create them. Think of it as a business arrangement where you and your co-parent are partners in the business of raising a child. Do not blame, criticize, or use sarcasm, and make every effort to focus solely on matters concerning your child.

Inform your co-parent before your child. 

Before instituting new rules or making decisions that will impact your co-parent, check in with them. Your child should never be the messenger, and it’s easier for your co-parent to process and accept a decision they don’t fully agree with if they do not hear it second-hand from your child. Talking with your co-parent about changes such as introducing a new partner or moving to a new home before telling your child helps them feel safe and secure knowing their parents are working together. 

Let go of control.  

Everyone has their own ideas about parenting, and sharing the responsibility with someone you may disagree with is hard! It can be tempting to try to control every aspect of their parenting, but before you challenge your partner’s methods, pause and ask;

  • What am I trying to accomplish?
  • Will raising the issue with my co-parent likely result in the change I’m seeking?
  • If it does, what are the costs to my relationship with my co-parent and child? Is the price worth it?
  • If raising the issue isn’t likely to result in the outcome I want, what is my motivation in the first place?

Questioning and nitpicking your co-parent’s every move undermines your child’s confidence and trust in them. It can be hard to swallow, but the range of parenting decisions you dislike but can live with is much broader than you think. Choose your battles, and always speak up if you are concerned your child’s safety or well-being is at risk.

Use a digital calendar. 

Sometimes, you may feel more like a secretary than a parent, especially as you coordinate pickups and drop-offs, after-school activities, tutoring, athletics, and other commitments. You and your co-parent need to work together to keep it running smoothly, and creating a shared online calendar can help prevent items from being forgotten or lost in translation. A color-coded system can make it easy for you to see who is responsible for what. The alerts function can serve as a gentle reminder for an absent-minded co-parent without overstepping boundaries.

Seek outside help.  

For a co-parenting arrangement to work, both partners need to make an effort to communicate as a team. If you are having difficulties in your co-parenting relationship, seeking the help of a counselor or mediator can set you on the path to a functional partnership so you and your child can thrive.

Adjusting and cultivating the skills needed for an effective co-parenting relationship takes time. Keep your child’s needs at the heart of every interaction, and remember you’re doing it so you and your child can thrive without added stress and conflict.

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