Co-parenting is a job that will challenge you every day, often in ways you could never imagine. Seasoned co-parents and family therapists can offer many tips on approaches and strategies that will help you achieve success and keep peace with your co-parent and your child(ren).
Practical Pointers for Co-Parenting
It's easy to get so caught up in juggling co-parenting with the rest of your life that you find yourself forgetting basic guidelines and tips you have already learned. Keeping some general guidelines in mind and occasionally reviewing them is helpful.
- While it's critical to have a schedule in place for both co-parents and children, it's equally important to be flexible in adhering to it. Being spontaneous is one of the simple joys of life, so leave plenty of room for it.
- Set up a yearly calendar of events that is easily accessible to both parents. Many free online calendars facilitate remote sharing. Mark all the important dates on it like birthdays and holidays to avoid the hassles of double booking.
- Establish a schedule of monthly phone calls or in-person meetings to discuss co-parenting issues regarding time spent together, medical appointments, homework and play dates or other social events.
- Keep a positive attitude when communicating with your co-parent. This can be difficult, but it is imperative to the well-being of the co-parents and child. If you need to vent about your troubles, do so with a friend or relative, well out of earshot of your kids.
- Avoid blatant criticism of the co-parent in front of your child. Not only does this set a good example, it also helps you avoid he-said/she-said situations when the comments are repeated.
- Talk directly to your co-parent about child-related issues. Avoid passing information along through the child, which can easily cause miscommunications or the information can simply be forgotten.
- Practice good anger management skills. If you feel your frustrations rising, walk into another room or simply go outside to take a few deep breaths to calm yourself. Refocus before continuing the discussion.
- Find a good and accessible counselor to help you cope with co-parenting issues you find overwhelming. An objective point of view can do wonders for your attitude and perspective.
Dealing with Different Age Groups
As kids grow up, their needs change. In addition, the situations you and your co-parent encounter will change, requiring different co-parenting approaches in order to keep your relationship with your children healthy and enjoyable.
- Babies: Hands down, this is the easiest age group to co-parent. As long as both parents follow the same feeding and sleeping schedules, babies are generally content.
- Toddlers: Children in this category also benefit from solid schedules, but as they start talking, explore the world and learn how to elicit reactions from parents, co-parenting them becomes more challenging. Maintaining a cool demeanor while discouraging misbehavior keeps children calm and more readily acceptable of limitations.
- School-age children: Co-parenting becomes significantly more demanding. Not only do children start to socialize more at this age, they also start questioning the co-parenting situation and frequently attempt to change certain aspects of it to better serve their own needs. Regardless of the type of co-parenting arrangement you have, be prepared to explain how and why it works for everyone and make sure that the other parent presents a comparable scenario and assessment to the child.
- Pre-teens: This age group requires more self-control and patience from co-parents than the younger ones. As children mature, they become more opinionated and rebellious, which is a state of mind that will demand endurance and a united front from both parents.
- Teenagers: At this stage, children are likely to balk at visitation schedules and other pre-planned events organized by co-parents. Exercise as much tolerance and understanding as possible without losing parental control. Stay in frequent contact with the co-parent to ensure your teen is not manipulating the situation.
Co-parenting is not an exact science. You may feel totally competent one day and sure you are a miserable failure the next. Learning to roll with the punches and keep striving for the best results will help you, your co-parent and your child keep perspective and maintain a happy and nourishing relationship. If you need additional help, try a co-parenting workshop or an online co-parenting program to learn tips and tricks to help you and your co-parent be successful and happy in your nurturing roles.