In our last post we wrote about common co-parenting mistakes and what steps you can take to avoid them.
In this post, we are defining the four pillars you need to build a strong and effective co-parenting relationship that puts your children first. Work with your co-parent to make sure that you have all of these pillars in place to support you in this very important task:
Communication is often a difficult undertaking for separated and divorced parents. But it is not something you can avoid if you are committed to taking a child-first approach to your co-parenting arrangements. Your objective is to establish clear, child-focused communication that is conflict-free. You will need to decide which type of communication works best for you. If you'd rather avoid speaking in person or on the phone, then a tool such as coparently provides a safe place for parents to communicate with each other – not open to emotion, opinion or interpretation. This helps to ensure that your communication remains child-focused and significantly reduces conflict.
Set a business-like tone in your communications with the other parent and speak to them in the same way as you would a colleague at work. You don't have to be friends; you just need to find a way to be professional and courteous to each other.
Try to make requests rather than demands and always be polite and civil in your communications. It also goes a long way if you take the time to really listen to what the other parent is saying.
When you are sending requests or asking for your co-parent's input on a parenting decision, make sure you give them a reasonable amount of time to respond and be realistic in your expectations.
Commit to communicating regularly and consistently. This will demonstrate to your kids that you are parenting as a team and that you have their best interests at heart.
Good co-parenting often means compromising. Research shows that parents who are more flexible are able to co-parent more effectively than those who are more rigid and refuse to compromise. There is no “right way” to parent your children and as long as your children are safe and well looked after when they are with the other parent, then don't try to assert your will into how things are done in the other household.
Also it helps if you can be flexible when it comes to requests for changes in the custody schedule for special occasions or vacations. Birthdays fall when they fall and if the other parent's birthday happens to be during your parenting time, be reasonable if your ex wants to celebrate with your children. If the idea of doing your ex a favor is intolerable, then do it for your kids. They have the right to celebrate birthdays and family occasions with both sides of the family – don't take that away from them just to get back at the other parent.
Co-operation in co-parenting means you share the responsibility for raising your children together and treat each other with respect and consideration. As separated parents, you will need to work together to manage your parenting time schedule, transitions, school, shared expenses, childcare and activities. You will also need to co-ordinate doctors and dentist appointments, sick days, birthday parties and family gatherings. The more you can co-ordinate your parenting efforts, the more effective your co-parenting will be. coparently provides you with all the tools you need to manage your co-parenting arrangements in a co-operative and business-like way.
By co-operating with your co-parent, you will demonstrate to your children that you are putting their needs above everything else and that you are willing to do whatever it takes to be the best parent you can be.
Even though you are separated, you will continue to make important parenting decisions together: which school your children attend, which doctor your child goes to, whether your child needs therapy, and so on. Co-parenting works best when both parents take an active role in important decisions relating to their children's mental and physical well-being. By co-operating with each other, you will both have a sense of support through the big life decisions so that you are not left feeling like you are solely responsible.
The definition of co-operation is the process of working together to the same end. To truly co-operate with the other parent, you will need to continue to work together in your common goal of raising healthy, happy kids who don't have to choose sides.
Studies show that children adjust much more easily to divorce or separation when both parents remain present in their life and provide a loving, stable and consistent environment for them to grow up in.
Consistency doesn't mean that you have to parent in the same way or that the daily routine has to be mirrored in both houses. But there are some important areas where your children will really benefit from consistency. Routine is very important to kids – it gives them a sense of security and helps them to feel safe. Work with your co-parent to set up a routine schedule for your children to follow. When expectations around chores, rules, mealtimes, homework, TV and social media are consistent in both houses, it enables children to develop the self-discipline they need to be successful in life.
Consistency in bedtime and bedtime rituals are very important for children of all ages. For kids to develop healthy sleep habits, it's important for them to go to bed at roughly the same time every night. A consistent bedtime routine in both homes is really comforting for children. Discuss bedtime and bedtime rituals with your co-parent and find a plan that you can both agree on and consistently achieve.
For children living between two homes, consistency on transition days can really help to reduce stress. Try to have a consistent transition time and a routine for drop off and pick up. It really helps to ease the anxiety of transitioning for your children when they know what to expect and can anticipate the routine.
With consistent co-parenting, you will find that your children are more relaxed, are more willing to join in with chores and family routines, and the time you spend together will be easier and much more fun.
With these four pillars in place, you will have the foundation you need to develop a very successful co-parenting relationship and even though it can be a lot of work, you will see that it is worth the effort.