Avoid the pitfalls of co-parenting by recognizing the importance of collaboration and communication
Raising children with someone you’ve divorced is no easy feat. Let’s face it, if the relationship had included good communication, mutual respect, and a willingness to compromise, you most likely wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. Divorce is difficult for everyone involved, and finding a new normal for your family as it goes through this evolution often feels nearly impossible.
The good news is that it’s not impossible – successful co-parenting happens all of the time. The bad news is that it requires a lot of effort, and a willingness to work with your ex in order to develop a new relationship that will support a secure and loving future for your children. As with all challenging endeavors, you have a better chance at successful co-parenting with a plan, and the right perspective.
Danger ahead: Poor co-parenting warning signs
One of the biggest challenges in co-parenting is the lack of control. Even if you have the best of intentions, you can’t force your parenting partner to cooperate. Also, it’s incredibly difficult to control your own emotions regarding your shared history or the current circumstances; no one is downplaying the damage divorce may have done to your personal sense of safety or well-being.
With all of that being said, what matters now is raising your children in an environment that respects the roles of both parents in their lives. Watch out for the following warning signs that your co-parenting process is in need of improvement:
Rigidity: Co-parenting requires adaptability. You are no longer the complete deciding factor in how your children are raised; that is a shared responsibility. If your parenting styles differ, this can be a real challenge. Although you may have a strict screen time policy and a sensible “no candy for breakfast” rule, your co-parenting partner doesn’t have to abide by those rules during their time with the children.
Also, a co-parenting plan may need to evolve over time. Changing schedules or developmental needs might require you to revisit what worked initially, and make adjustments that reflect what’s best for the kids.
Lack of boundaries: While it’s important to be amicable and adaptable, boundaries are important too. You should be friendly with your co-parenting partner, but you don’t have to be friends. In fact, doing so may invite the potential for personal drama. You’re both going to be moving on as individuals, and that may bring up some difficult emotions for one or both parties. Think of yourself as cordial co-workers; you have a job to do – raising your children together. Be polite, but there’s no need to overshare or act indiscreetly. If a friendship isn’t a healthy or practical option, don’t force the issue.
Poor communication: Not wanting to speak to your ex isn’t unusual, particularly while wounds are still fresh. Regardless, communication is necessary during any type of partnership. Expectations need to be clearly defined and both parties need to be on the same page. There are many different modern modes of communication available, so find something that works best for both of you. It’s often preferable to communicate through texts, emails, or an app. These options are slightly less personal and have the added benefit of creating a written record that can be revisited if needed.
Disrespect: Don’t speak poorly about your co-parenting partner. It’s tempting, particularly if you’re left making excuses for their absences or shortcomings, but it’s essential to remember that your children love both of their parents, and it’s in their best interest to do so. Vent to your friends or a therapist, if you must, but be the bigger person in front of the kids.
Divorce is hard. Your marriage may be over, but co-parenting will last a lifetime, in some form or another. Work toward recognizing where you can do better, try to change your perspective, and find tools to help you organize and communicate in a way that feels fair to everyone involved. Family Plan is committed to empowering parents after divorce or separation by helping with organization, improving collaboration, and simplifying payment obligations to reduce stress and eliminate potential conflict. Download our app to get started.