Co-parenting after a relationship ends can be one heck of a challenge. Depending on the nature of the breakup, parents working together to raise a child/children can be an emotional and tiring process.
If mom and dad are not able to talk about their differences and concerns regarding parenting, or if they can’t come to a resolution about co-parenting disagreements, then one of two things typically occurs:
a. Each parent simply continues to parent how they see fit, regardless of whether their rules and expectations violate what the other parent is trying to do, or
b. One parent throws in the towel and withdraws from active co-parenting, becoming more detached, and most likely leaving the decision-making, disciplining, and follow-through to the other parent.
In both of these circumstances, the child loses out. In scenario a, the child receives inconsistent messages, which can lead to feelings of uncertainty and worry (and often to behaviour problems at home and school). In the second scenario, the child loses out on an important contributor in their life.
I’ve been through a bit of both. Lord knows it’s been a roller coaster. It has taken a combination of time, understanding and maturity to bring me to my present day approach to co-parenting with my ex. I want my daughters to experience a healthy mind, body, and soul during their childhood and well into their adulthood. It’s important for the four of us to have balance. When I look at the big picture, there’s a reason why my ex and I came together and made these little miracles. I certainly couldn’t have done it on my own. So, in that respect, I give credit where credit is due.
5 things you can do to help make co-parenting after a breakup go smoothly:
- Communication is key. Just as it is the key to building a solid couple relationship and/or marriage, communication is vital for building a solid co-parenting alliance. I used the word alliance deliberately, because wherever possible, mom and dad need to maintain a united front. You need to communicate with each other and effectively discuss your views on parenting. And no fighting over schedules. Your end goal should be the same, both parents wanting to spend time with the child – so try and remember that when figuring out a timetable that works for you.
- You don’t have to be estranged in order to prove you’re no longer a couple. It’s healthy for your kids to see their parents in the same setting. No, you’re not together anymore, but you don’t have to pretend you hate each other either. Kids are smart and can pick up on more cues than we realize. Having moments with both mom and dad present can sometimes be what they need to fill that void of the ideal family. Now, this can get tricky if there are still unresolved romantic feelings between the parents. That said, set limits to the time spent together and don’t over do it.
- Don’t undermine or criticize the other parent in front of the children. Kids need to be kids, so don’t stress them out with your adult issues. Not only do they understand what’s going on, but they remember everything. So if you’ve got a problem, save the drama and gossip with your friends for another time when your kids are not around. They don’t need to hear it. They are also not objects, so DON’T USE THE KIDS AS PAWNS. I’ll admit, this one’s easier said than done. But when I think about that pure, innocent, super hero-like love my girls have for their father, I’d rather not spoil that with a miserable and negative attitude.
- If your ex has moved on – try your best to mind your business and not get caught up in your feelings. Woo! Another tough one. Because I swear it seems the men always move on faster than we do (am I right, ladies?) Well, after you get all in your feelings and vent to your girlfriends (or whatever else you need to do to get over it) – it comes right back to communication. Talk to your ex about what this new addition to the already broken family will mean for your child. Hopefully your ex made a good judgment call on whom they chose to bring into your child’s life. Remember your ex’s new partner can’t ever replace you, and your child is well aware of who mommy and daddy are. Let’s keep it real, do whatever proper investigation you need to make yourself comfortable to know your kids are in good hands! And, give your children the time to adjust to the new setup as well.
- It’s not written in stone. Remember that this is an ongoing process. Parenting plans should be revised over time as needed, and as the kids get older.
If all else fails: Therapy is not a bad thing. Try it. I haven’t done it, but I’m not opposed to getting some extra help if ever the co-parenting situation takes a drastic turn for the worse.