It´s no secret that separating or divorcing is hard, especially when there are children involved. Children go through a lot during a divorce or separation. They have no control over what´s going on, which often makes it harder on them, and they feel torn between to of the most important people in their lives.
That’s why it’s important to try and co-parent your child in the healthiest way possible, regardless of how tumultuous the separation is. The truth is, most parents don’t want their children to suffer during or after a divorce. The best way to make it easier on them is to co-parent your children in a civil manner, without having to go through the court system.
Unfortunately, avoiding the court system is not an option in some cases. However, I strongly recommend leaving the court system as an absolute last resort.
What is Co-Parenting?
Co-parenting is also referred to as “shared” or “joint” parenting. Technically, co-parenting is defined as two or more parents raising a child together even though they are not romantically involved. Co-parenting is what happens when people put their issues with each other aside for the sake of raising a child in a healthy environment.
However, co-parenting is so much more than just sharing custody. To truly co-parent in a healthy way, both parents of the child will usually share the duty of attending sports games, school functions, homework, and everything else that comes along with raising a child. Both parents should be present in some way for the small things, as well as the big things.
Co-parenting also means that both parents must be able to keep an open and understanding mind when discussing their children. There may be disagreements at times, but the important thing is that you’re able to compromise. Both parents need to be on the same page at all times. Whether it’s a baseball game, studying for a big test, or agreeing to let your child start dating.
The key is to make sure your child knows you’re both on the same page, and you’re both there to support them. It’s important to remember that co-parenting isn’t just about making sure the children get to see both of their parents. It’s about the parents being able to work together in a civil manner, so that they can still feel the warmth of both of their parents cheering them on at a baseball game, or gymnastics try out. Essentially, you and your ex-partner need to still be able to come together as one when it comes to the kids.
When people think of the term co-parenting they often think of a divorced mother and father raising a child. However, the truth is that everyone’s situation is different. Sometimes there’s a stepmother and/or stepfather involved, and sometimes the children even end up living with their grandparents for a little while. In cases like these, co-parenting is something that everyone involved must be a part of.
If there are stepparents involved, it’s important for them to have a role in co-parenting as well. The same goes for grandparents raising their grandchildren, while the parents have visitation. Everyone that plays a role in your child’s life as a guardian or parental figure should find a way to come together and co-parent the children.
No one is saying that everyone has to become best friends to be able to properly co-parent. However, everyone should learn how to be civil and understanding when it concerns the children. Simply put, co-parenting is the act of giving children a normal happy childhood, regardless of which parents’ home they spend the most time in.
How Does Co-parenting Work?
It’s important to remember that everyone is different, therefore everyone co-parents differently. So, don’t look at how someone else is doing something and think you’re doing it wrong. What works for one family, may not work for another family.
Although everyone is different, there are some basic guidelines (or tips) that may help explain how co-parenting generally works. Co-parenting is something that must be reciprocal. Both parents must put the same amount of effort into it, and both parents must commit to being cordial for the sake of their children. It won’t work if one parent is trying their best to make it work, while the other is still fighting it every step of the way.
It’s also important for you both to be willing to compromise with each other. If you want your child to do something that doesn’t sit well with the other parent, find a happy middle. Talk it out until you find a solution that you’re both comfortable with. If an argument starts, gently remind the other parent(s) involved that you agreed to compromise when a debate occurs.
Believe it or not, one of the biggest issues with co-parenting can be house rules. The children will be going to two different households, which probably means there are two separate house rules they must follow. This can cause the child to become confused, or even try to play one parent against the other. That’s why it’s important that both parents agree on rules for the children and implement them in both households.
Bedtime routines, homework rules, and everything else should be the same for the children regardless of whose house they happen to be in. This will also help maintain stability in your child’s life.
It goes without saying that most people want their kids to be with them during the holidays. So, it’s important to compromise and come up with a solution beforehand. It will help avoid an argument during the holiday season. Rotating holidays can be a great way to get a handle on co-parenting during the holidays, and it’s simple. Your child can spend the holidays with their mother one year, and then go to their fathers for the holidays they year after that.
It’s very rare for both parents to spend the holidays with their children together after they’ve separated. However, if you get along great with your ex and their new spouse, spending the holidays together can have a very positive effect on your children. Now remember, a situation like that is rare, so don’t get down on yourself if you can’t pull it off.
Co-parenting with Stepparents
Although it’s important for stepparents to be a part of the co-parenting process, it can become a bit more complicated when there’s a stepparent involved. It’s important for the children to respect their stepparent, but at the same time most be parents feel there should be some boundaries for the stepparents.
So, everyone involved should sit down and have a talk and agree on boundaries that they would like the stepparents to follow. For example, if you don’t want your child’s stepparent to oversee scolding or punishing the children, mention it to them. If they don’t fully agree, continue to talk until you both come to a conclusion that works for everyone.
If both biological parents are in the child’s life, it’s probably not a good idea to make the kids call a stepmom “mom” or a stepdad “dad”. Most children have a hard time seeing their parents with different people. In fact, some children are afraid that their stepparent is trying to take their biological parents place. So, in a situation like this, it may not be best to ask your child to call your new spouse “mom” or “dad”. It will only amplify those feelings of resentment.
The stepparent should have a talk with the children and explain that, although they do not want to take the mother or fathers place, they would like to have a good relationship with them. It’s important to support the idea of your children having a good relationship with their stepparents. Which means it’s never okay to talk about your ex’s spouse in a negative way in front of your children.
Some children may even gain a stepbrother or stepsister. It’s very common for stepsiblings to dislike each other at first. Never try to force them to get along. Let them come around on their own. Although you shouldn’t force them to get along, it’s healthy to take them on outings together. They will never make time to try and connect with each other on their own. If you take them on fun outings, it will give them some time to really get to know each other. You can take them to a fair, out to dinner, or you can even take them miniature golfing. Just remember not to push them, let it happen naturally.
Now remember, everyone is different, so this may not apply to everyone. For example, if your child’s stepparent has an infant and the infants biological father (or mother) is not in the picture, that child may call your ex daddy (or mommy). If this is the case, it’s important to explain why the other child calls their parent mommy or daddy also. Make sure they understand that it does not mean their parents love them less.
Some children may even feel guilty about loving and caring for their stepparents. It can make them feel like they’re somehow betraying their biological parent. So, it’s important to talk to your child and reassure them that it’s okay to have feelings for their stepparent. Keeping an open and understanding mind is the key to successful co-parenting.
How to Co-parent With an Uncooperative Ex-Spouse
Being able to successfully co-parent your child is a great thing, and in a perfect world all parents would find a way to make co-parenting work for the sake of their children. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. No matter how hard you try to civilly co-parent, it will never work if it’s one sided.
An ex-spouse may mutually agree to be civil and co-parent the children, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are following through with it. If this issue arises try to talk to them about it and gently remind them that you’re doing this for the kids. No matter what the issue is, try your best to talk to them before doing something drastic.
Although avoiding the court system is the best way to practice healthy co-parenting, in some cases it’s unavoidable. If your ex-spouse is being completely uncooperative and causing more harm than good, it might be a good idea to handle everything through the court systems. Going to court can sometimes be a positive thing and it doesn’t mean your child will never see their other parent again.
If you’re dealing with an ex-spouse that just doesn’t want to do anything in a civil manner, going to court can be the best thing to do for everyone involved. Once the courts have made their final decisions, it’s important to stay within the guidelines of the court order. Especially if your ex-spouse is fixated on giving you a hard time every step of the way.
The Benefits of Co-Parenting
Co-parenting can benefit everyone involved, especially the children. It lifts a lot of stress off everyone’s shoulders, and it’s a lot more convenient. If you need to work on your day off, you can see if your ex-spouse is available to watch your child. If your child gets sick and needs to be picked up from school, you can always ask your ex if he is able to pick up your child.
You will be able to rely on each other during these moments, which is a great thing. Being able to count on your child’s mother or father for things like this will release a lot of stress. However, the people that benefit from it the most are the children. Co-parenting makes things a lot easier for a child whose parents are separating. It can make them happier, and less concerned about the split. After all, the whole point of co-parenting is to raise your child in a healthy and happy environment, regardless of their parents living situation.