Co-parenting can be a challenge whether you’re married or divorced. In either case, you are co-parenting with someone who has been raised in a different household and has different ways of doing things. Bring those two people together to raise a child and often times it is accompanied with power struggles, hurt feelings, anger, animosity, bitterness and division. Have you experienced that? If not handled well, this can cause children great anxiety and confusion. No one wins.
What was it like when you were growing up? Were your parents basically on the same page or were they very different? Did one run the household and the other simply complied? Did they fight over how you would be raised? It’s interesting when you think about the fact that we all come from two people who were raised in different households with different rules, beliefs and lifestyles. Every family ends up with a mixture.
When a decision needs to be made and you suddenly realize you’re not on the same page, what do you do? Some parents default to doing what their parents did, whether it worked or not. Some default to doing the exact opposite of what their parents did. And some find a happy place in the middle.
Co-parenting within a marriage is different than co-parenting after divorce. Add a remarriage, and it gets even harder. A seemingly innocent request from a child can quickly be the catalyst to arguments and upset. I’ve been co-parenting post-divorce for 25 years. We don’t have it all worked out, but we have found some basic how-to’s that I can pass along:
- Put the children first. It doesn’t matter how you feel about the other parent or what they did or didn’t do. That’s not something the kids need to pay for. Deal with that separately.
- Do NOT talk badly about the other parent to or in front of your children. Your children are a combination of both of you. When either one speaks poorly of the other, it hurts a child deeply. If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything.
- Be flexible in the best interest of your child. Yes you may have a piece of paper that states a specific schedule, but don’t use your children as pawns to get back at the other parent. Ask the question, “What is best for our son/daughter?”
- If at all possible, find a few times a year when you can all be together for dinner or lunch or hanging out at the house. I know it’s hard and even impossible in some situations. If it’s possible … that would mean so much to your kids! Think about their feeling of wholeness and family. You may not be able to live together, but can you enjoy some time together a few times a year? We have done that for years with our kids and it has made such a difference.
- If you have differing ideas about how to handle something, take the time to find out where the other parent is coming from. Care. Be curious. Look for common ground.
- Forgive and move forward.
There are many ways families can thrive in a co-parenting situation. It’s not always easy, but it is doable. If you are having challenges with co-parenting (whether married, divorced or blending a family), feel free to give me a call. I provide a free 15-minute telephone consultation. You’ll have an opportunity to ask questions and get input on any challenge, with no obligation. Simply call 951-240-1407 or email me to schedule your appointment!