Divorce may be the best and healthiest option for your family in the long run. And if this is the case, the happiness and stability of your kids are of topmost importance. Here are creative ways to co-parent successfully.
In our society, divorce or separation can often come along with the stigma of difficulty or failure. There are many long standing expectations around staying together for the kids even if you’re miserable – and even if that makes everyone in the household miserable.
Even if you think you’re hiding it well, kids can usually tell when there’s tension, and it can impact their development to be around parents who are hostile towards one another. All this is to say that a split is often the healthiest decision you can make with your family.
No matter the reason for your split, being able to co-parent successfully can be a rewarding process for mums and dads. Often, when you remove the marriage element or perhaps you never had it to begin with, communication can be so much more productive and efficient. Really, it allows you do devote focus to the kids, which is how parenting should be.
1. Avoid Talking Badly to Your Kids About the Other Parent
While this one is often a given, it can be quite difficult for some people to stick to. It can be unhealthy and confusing for kids to hear you badmouthing their other parental figure. If they have a good relationship, it can damage their bond or make your child feel guilty for having a good time with them. If they don’t already have a good relationship and perhaps they’re having a difficult time with their other parent, bad-mouthing them can sink your child deeper into their funk.
Remember, as much as you may not like dealing with your ex, your child has to be around them much more often than you do, for better or for worse. Bad mouthing your ex rarely does much besides worsen their experience.
2. Get on the Apps
Often, from scheduling to communication, getting your ducks in a row can be difficult as a co-parent. Not only do you have to remember the schedules of your children, but now you need to have at least an idea of the whereabouts of a fully grown adult who doesn’t even live in your household. Luckily, there are actually plenty of apps that can make your life as a co-parent easier.
You can rely on the classic Google Calendar, but there are also plenty of apps geared specifically at co-parents so you can create to-do lists, track shared finances and even share personal information, family photos and videos. Coparently and OurFamilyWizard are a few examples of these helpful tools.
3. Demonstrate Positive Communication
One of the benefits of co-parenting when it comes to child development and important lessons is the chance to model productive communication styles. Whether you’re discussing personal matters or scheduling, doing it in front of the kids can be beneficial in teaching them lessons like compromise, kindness and effective teamwork skills.
It can be easy to make the family communication process invisible to kids. When the scheduling and working through things, disagreements and resolutions happen behind closed doors, and it can sometimes come off to the kids like that stuff just magically happens. But, of course, it doesn’t. Communication and relationships take effort, and showing that to your kids can be one of the best lessons you teach them.
4. Spend Family Time Together
If the two of you can be civil for a day, spending an occasional outing or holiday together can help create a bit more of a unifying feeling for your family. While you and your partner may have to get over a few hurdles, your kids will be overjoyed to spend some time with both of their parents in the same space. If the two of you are good friends and don’t have much awkwardness to surmount, that should be all the more reason to spend the occasional family day.
Communication and boundaries are important here, too. Nobody is asking you to give up your family Christmas at your mum’s house or your annual camping trip. You can find ways around hiccups and even involve each other in important events.
5. Get Involved in a Babysitting Exchange
Who says support needs to be limited to the two of you? Being a co-parent is hard work, and each of you deserve some alone time and time to rest. Babysitting exchanges are often great options for single parents or any other parents who want to get a bit of downtime. And who better to add to your arsenal of babysitters than the literal parent of your children? Get in touch with other parents you trust – perhaps parents of your kids’ friends, and see if they’d like to get involved.
6. Find a Safe Space to Vent
While your kids may not be the most beneficial place to express your frustrations with the other parent in the picture, you may still need to get those feelings out somewhere. Consider going to counseling or finding a trusted friend to hash out your issues with you every once in a while – it could be just what you need.
In This Together
Whether you and your ex are together or you’re simply good friends and civil parents, you’re in this game together. You both want the best for your kids, and striving to do right by them together can bring your unconventional family a little closer.
What are your top tips to co-parent successfully? Tell us in the comments below.