Parenting can be a tough thing to do even if you are in a great relationship. It is harder still if you get divorced or never had a relationship in the first place. And smooth parenting becomes a real challenge if you are not on good terms with your co-parent.
Erratic behavior, difficulties getting visiting days and emotional outbursts are symptoms of dysfunctional co-parenting. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 7 tips to make co-parenting easier on you and your children as well.
1. Bury the hatchet
No matter the past, you need to let bygones be bygones. This can prove extremely difficult, especially in relationships that ended badly. But unless you are willing to let it all go, you won’t be able to provide a good environment for your children.
You need to understand this isn’t your old relationship anymore. This is an entirely different type of relationship where conflict must be avoided. You and your former partner are not the protagonists anymore. Your children’s well-being is the important thing now.
2. Show a unified front
As well as putting the past behind you, coparents need to join together once again and show a unified front to your children. Remember, you are in a different type of relationship now. You are co-parents.
It is extremely important to show your kids there are no sides. Decisions are made in agreement by you both. Otherwise, you are setting yourself to fail. Not only your children will start playing different sides when they want different things — making good co-parenting impossible — but they may develop trust issues and poor habits for their adult relationships.
3. Clear communication
This is the fundamental truth for stable co-parenting. You need to be honest and — most importantly — clear in your communication. Do not expect the other person to understand what you say or what you mean. Make it abundantly clear. And double-check, just in case.
Miscommunication can turn a good co-parenting relationship sour in moments, especially in the days of text messages and social media. Try to make important decisions using as many words as you need. Leave short text messages for simple communication tasks, such as confirmation of previously-arranged plans.
4. Set up a schedule
Visiting days and holidays can be a great source of arguments when you are a co-parent. People try to make plans spontaneously and can’t keep dates in their heads. Eventually, things overlap and this leads into trouble.
You can avoid these issues by setting up a schedule. Be crystal clear about weekend visitations, birthdays and holidays. Both of you should have it in writing, just in case. Scheduling can be done quite easily using technology such as that available at timtab.com.
Of course, this does not mean to be overly rigid. If everyone agrees, the schedule can be changed.
5. Set ground rules
You need to have basic rules everyone can follow. This will not only make it easier for the coparents but for the children as well. If everybody knows how they have to behave and how not to behave with each other, there is little to no room for avoidable problems.
But remember, they are basic ground rules. If you make rules extremely severe, people are bound to break them at some stage. Keep it simple and realistic, which you might be able to do better with mediation services to assist.
6. Don’t let emotions get the best of you
Even if you follow every single thing in this list, problems may arise regardless. You have to keep your cool as long as you are with your co-parent or your children. If you let emotions such as anger creep in, simple matters can become complicated and hard to resolve.
Keep your emotions in check and have someone to talk to after you finished with your co-parenting responsibilities. We are not telling you to bottle it up inside and let it eat you up. You are going to need to vent from time to time, but never in front of your co-parent or children.
7. Remember why you’re doing this
This is the one that is going to help you keep going no matter how hard things get. Remember why you are going through this: your children (or child). They are the important people in your life and your efforts will help them tremendously in the long run. If you think you are about to lose it, take a deep breath and think about them. That always helps.
Help: Northwestern University’s parenting networks and resources