Dealing with Common Co-Parenting Issues

Marcelina Hardy, MSEd, BCC
Co-parents caring for an infant

Co-parenting isn't always easy, but you can do it. All you need are some helpful hints to get you through the worst of situations.

How to Deal with Co-Parenting Issues

All parents go through challenges, but co-parenting has its unique ones that are not resolved by conventional parenting problem-solving skills. Co-parenting requires a special set of skills, and, therefore, a unique survival guide when the following issues pop up.

The Other Parent Dislikes You

When you entered into the world of co-parenting, your feelings towards each other may have been at least amicable. However, since that time, you and your co-parent have had conflicts that have changed your relationship.

While it can be uncomfortable working with someone who doesn't like you, for the sake of your child, you and your partner in parenting must put your differences aside. Vow not to discuss the situations that have led to the change in feelings you have for one another, and focus only on your child.

If the other parent attacks you with words or uses your child against you, do not attack him back or the situation might get out of hand very quickly. Remind him that this situation isn't the child's fault and it's not fair to her that she has to witness such violence between her parents. Resist getting into disagreements by telling him that if he can't speak calmly and nicely, that you will have to continue the conversation at another time. Be firm and follow through with your requests.

You Never Agree with the Co-Parent

Most people who plan to have a child together do so because they have common values, beliefs and interests. However, as time goes on, these ideals may change as a result of various experiences. If you and your co-parent have suddenly been bumping heads on important decisions concerning your child, you may have to do some of the following to resolve the issue:

  • Learn to compromise so that you get what you want sometimes and he gets what he wants other times.
  • Set up a co-parenting agreement by using a mediator, if needed.
  • If possible, don't make decisions on the spot. In addition, if one parent won't agree and the other won't compromise, decide not to do it. For example, if one parent wants to take the child camping for two nights, and the other parent says only one night of camping is allowed, decide not to do the trip at all.
  • If you can't agree on a situation that needs to be decided on, think only about the interest and well-being of the child. Co-parenting disagreements are often the result of differences between the adults; the actual decision should be made with the child's best interests in mind.

Your Child Says Co-Parent Is Talking Badly About You

When children hear one parent talk badly about the other parent, they become worried and sad. These are negative feelings a child should not have, so it's best to stop the bad mouthing immediately.

Talk to the co-parent as soon as possible. Do not mention that the child has said something, but rather discuss how your child has been quiet lately and/or upset. Mention that you know that the co-parent doesn't love you but that for the sake of your child's happiness, it would be best to leave him out of it.

If the situation doesn't get better, you may have to tell your co-parent that you've heard your child make some upsetting statements and you would appreciate that he refrain from saying these things around your child. If you have a third party such as a counselor or mediator, you can have that person address the situation for you.

Co-Parent Breaks Agreements Often

If you have a co-parenting agreement or rules set in place for when your child is with his other parent, and that parent doesn't follow them, the situation needs addressing immediately. Some people like to test how far they can go without repercussions.

Let the other parent know that you will not stand for him violating the rules that you both set in place for the safety and well-being of your child. Tell him that if he feels that some of the rules are too stringent or no longer apply, that you can meet to discuss a new agreement. However, until that happens, the parent must follow what you first decided on.

If your co-parent is truly a jerk and doesn't take you seriously, continuously violating agreements and missing appointments, you may want to get a third party involved. If you work with a lawyer or a counselor, call him to intervene.

Co-Parent Neglects Child

If your co-parent hasn't been around to see your child or has decided to stop being a parent, you can't force him to interact with your child. Instead, you need to meet with him to discuss what he would like his role to be as a co-parent. If he decides that he does not want anything to do with the child or only wants very limited contact, obey his wishes but leave the door open for when he decides he wants to engage with his child. However, let him know that when he does decide that it has to be at a time that is convenient for both you and your child.

Help for Common Co-Parenting Problems

In most cases, discussing the situation with the co-parent is the best route to go. In stressful or difficult situations, you may want to consider seeking out the professional help of a counselor or mediator. Whether the two of you work things out on your own or with the help of a professional, having an open mind and being flexible will yield the best results when problem solving.

Dealing with Common Co-Parenting Issues