Many of us have experience with relationships ending, but unfortunately, sometimes children also happen to be involved. In fact, 40-50% of marriages end in divorce which doesn't include common-law relationships. Granted when most couples decide to make a family, they cannot predict the future outcome of their relationship ending.
As parents we want the best for our children, howbeit, sometimes emotions become a factor while parenting with an ex-spouse whose communication tone may or may not be hostile. It is important to remember that unless there is a circumstance of abuse or a possibility of your children being harmed while in the care of your ex, all issues should stay between adults and not be taken out in front of the children. Despite going through a difficult time yourself, your children may be struggling with adjusting to a new life where mommy and daddy are no longer living together yet are sharing the kids. They may be feeling insecure, confused, angry or sad.
Co-parenting is a way of ensuring that your children still feel connected to a parental unit, which can help them settle into a stable routine despite living in two different homes. A healthy co-parenting relationship with your ex is also a bonus for you, as who would want drama from a past relationship?
Here are 10 ways to successfully co-parent together!
10 Put Arrangements In Place
When relationships end, some ex-couples can arrange a mutual and communitive resolution of how to parent their children, while others require the legal system. It is important to keep in mind, that everyone's situation is different and that those who may require a third party to make arrangements are doing so in the best interest of their children.
There could be multiple bumps along the co-parenting journey but it is important to put structure and arrangements into place, so your children adjust to a routine, sooner rather than later. Emotions play a major part during conflict resolution; therefore, a legal mediator, children's lawyer, or judge may have to be a third party decision maker.
9 Communication Is #1
The beginning stages of co-parenting may not be ideal since you and your ex-spouse are still learning how to interact despite having an abundant amount of emotions targetted at each other. Nonetheless, as much as you may not prefer to talk to your ex, you still need to when it comes to the well being of your children. Especially if you have joint custody, most parenting decisions will need to be discussed and decided on together.
It is important to figure out a source of communication that works for both of you. If you cannot talk civilly while face-to-face, there are many other ways to communicate that may help reduce tension and animosity like texting/calling, co-parenting apps, and exchange centers.
8 Don't Judge Your Ex-Spouse Too Quickly
Understandably, it can be easy to point out someone's faults or mistakes when we are upset with them. Following a separation, a parent may feel a bit lost while managing kids alone, or they may struggle with mental health issues as a result of the relationship ending. During the early stage, parents should try to not judge their ex too harshly about his or her parenting ability (as hard as that can be) as everyone copes to change differently.
Co-parenting can be successful if you have an empathetic perspective towards your ex, realizing he or she is doing the best job possible while navigating a new life. Children are observant when it comes to how their parents act, and seeing parents who are supportive and civil with each other helps assure the kids that this new life change isn't their fault.
As much as you may wish to no longer see your ex; if you have children with him or her, they will be in your life for the next +18 years. There will be many times that you may have to see each other like at school functions, extra-curricular activities, your child's future marriage, etc.
Eventually, it would be beneficial to become friends again with your ex-spouse, however, if that is not plausible, then at the very least attempt to become civil with one another. It is best to avoid any unnecessary drama, including letting friends or family influence your opinion of each other's parenting styles. Co-parenting is just between the parents and does not involve anyone else.
6 Trust Is Important
Trust can be a tricky obstacle to overcome while learning how to co-parent. Perhaps the relationship ended due to adultery or from the sort of violation of dependence. Even if building trust again is a slow process, it is beneficial to you, the parent, and your children to know that they are in good hands while with your ex.
Trust is important for co-parenting and makes it all that easier to develop a friendly relationship again. Trust also ensures your children are in a safe and loving environment. It can model healthy relationship and social skills to your child, including the ability to resolve conflict, have patience, be able to self-regulate emotions and entrust in others.
5 Do Things Together
The amazing thing about children is that parents can re-experience something for the first time, through the eyes of their child. Children remember exciting, happy and cherished memories of their childhood, especially times spent with his or her parents.
Successful co-parenting is when you can do things together for the sake of your children. Some ex-couples go on vacations together, some spend holidays with each other, while others may spend time together taking their children to the park. Although it may seem different from others also on a co-parenting journey, have faith that you and your ex will find something that works for your family.
4 Set Healthy Boundaries
It is important for both parties to feel heard, in order to create an honest relationship between co-parenting couples. For all one knows, one of you may still have unresolved feelings for the other, further complicating the ability to keep communication focused on the children.
In the beginning, healthy boundaries can make the situation a bit easier and more pleasant. Both parties should have an opportunity to calmly express their wants and needs, which can assist in making a co-parenting relationship work while creating a sense of predictability and respect. Some couples are able to set healthy boundaries independently, while others may require a professional like a legal mediator or a couples counselor.
3 Expect Change
Separation or divorce, let alone learning how to co-parent, are huge life changes. Be that as it may, changes never stop happening. There is a possibility of both you and your ex forming new relationships after the one you had with each other. If your child is around your ex's new partner, you do not have the authority to dictate who can be a part of your ex's life.
Of course, not all new relationships will work out. Nevertheless, there is always the chance that your child will obtain a step-parent who will forever be a part of their life. It is hard on a child hearing negative remarks about their parent or step-parent. Accepting the fact that your child may have a new "mom" or "dad" can be unimaginable; however, you can consider this new adult in your child's life as someone else who loves your kid. Just like becoming friends with your ex-spouse is important for co-parenting, it doesn't hurt having a civil or friendly relationship with their new partner, for the sake of your child.
2 Be Flexible
As we all know, parenting and life, in general, can be unpredictable. This can be hard when you are trying to create stability and routine for your children while sharing custody with the other parent. Being flexible in a co-parenting relationship can make the process a bit easier because it can reduce unnecessary conflict and increase patience and support.
If your ex is a few minutes late dropping off or picking up the children, maybe a work situation occurred and scheduling of who has the children might need to change, then a degree of flexibility would be ideal. However, if flexibility isn't being obtained from both sides or one parent is continuously letting down his or her children, that is an entirely different situation.
1 Family Always Comes First
Family to your children is the first emotional bond they develop in their lives. Even though we cannot sugar coat life's misfortunes for our kids, we can ensure their need for love and support are always the first priority.
Children also benefit from seeing their grandparents, extended, and blended family members. To know that their parents include other family members, even if they are no longer related by marriage, validates the point that they are continuously sustained in a family environment that will always be there for them. Besides, a healthy relationship with your ex's family is more hands helping you with your children (and is that really so bad?).