Parenting looks more different now than it has ever before. With so many new dynamics of families emerging in our world today, this can be a beautiful thing. It can also be an incredibly stressful dynamic for you to navigate. Co-parenting is the shared parenting of a child or children by their parents or parental figures who are not married or are not living together. These parents may have been married and are now separated or divorced, or they could have never been married. The qualifying factor is that these persons involved do not have any romantic involvement. This can also be called joint parenting. This parenting dynamic takes on the usual responsibilities of parenthood, but also may face conflict when deciding factors like religious upbringing, education preferences, medical care, and many other major areas or avenues of the children’s’ lives. Joint parenting is more common than you may think, its is estimated that 40% of United States children are being raised in a family outside of a married, biological dynamic.
Cooperative co-parenting has a huge impact on the life of the child or children involved. It is because of this that it is crucial to make sure the dynamic is operating as efficiently as possible. You will have to face a number of challenges that you may not have considered to make this relationship work, but these challenges will only provide your child with the opportunity to have a better life so rest assured- these factors are well worth it!
Let go of the past. If you have nothing but anger or animosity towards your ex, this can have a direct impact on your child’s perception of their other parent. This can be difficult, as humans we do still need to vent our frustrations, and particularly in regards to a person you might rather abandon with your past, this may not be possible if you are attempting to joint parent. You can still disclose any anger or frustration you have towards your ex-partner to a friend, family member, or licensed professional, but never share these views to your child.
Focus on the most important thing, which is your child. The past you may or may not have had with your ex is in the past, however your children are your present and future. Remind yourself of this and remain focused on cultivating this dynamic for the sake of your child. You do not have to be best friends with your ex, but maintaining a healthy, efficient relationship will help create a respectful environment for your child to be raised in. Children model our behaviors, and it is better to have them model ones of respect and understanding than animosity or anger.
Communication will be your strongest attribute when navigating co-parenting situations. Be clear and concise with the information you disclose to your co-parent, your communication should always remain neutral and businesslike between the two of you. Try not to blame or accuse your ex of things and try to be cooperative. Do not make demands or threaten them, you should try and remain mindful of how your words will come across. With that in mind, keep texting conversations limited. Not only will this help establish boundaries between what is appropriate levels of communication for the two of you, but texting can be easily misinterpreted. Lastly, make sure your communication is direct between yourself and the joint parent. If you are going between your grandparent or stepparent, miscommunication is more likely to occur. Avoid this situation entirely by communicating with them directly.
Another component of effective communication that so many of us struggle with, is active listening. Share the time speaking your opinions, take turns speaking and do not interrupt them when they are speaking. A great way to engage in active listening skills is to repeat back what they have said to you and ask if you have understood them correctly. If they tell you no, ask them to rephrase what they have said in a different way. This is also an effective way of holding the two of you accountable, if you eliminate the possibility for miscommunication through this clarification, you will better serve your child together.
Support one another the best that you can. Parents who work together, regardless of what the dynamic looks like are the most effective parents. If your joint parent does something well regarding your child, it is alright to compliment them. This will positively reinforce their actions and help keep your conversations productive. If you have established set rules for your child, make sure they are agreed upon between the two of you and support these boundaries. Stick to these rules regardless of which home they are in, if it means limiting screen time do so, you are still a team even if you are apart. This will help keep your child from resenting one of the two of you that is the stricter enforcer, and when they come back to this parent’s home they may be under more stress feeling like they have to ‘undue’ the time spent in the others home.
Plan things out with plenty of notice and keep your ex-partner in the loop. If you have a vacation planned, keep them informed about where you will be and ways to reach you while you are gone. Try and be courteous and do not schedule a vacation during time you know your child will be at the other parent’s home. This will ultimately cause conflict and inconsistency for your child, which only serves them a disservice. Remember, consistency is key, so try to keep them on a routine of where they spend the holidays or work on alternating them between the two of you.
Lastly, which remains important in all dynamics, remember to compromise. No one sees eye to eye all the time, regardless of whether they are together or not. If you cannot agree and experience conflict, try and come up with a solution you both can live with. Keep these skills in mind when communicating between the two of you and stay focused on the goal of your child being raised with the most love and attention they can.