You made some amazing little people together, but sometimes life throws a monkey wrench in the works and now you find yourself co-parenting with an ex. Far from being a parenting fail, joint parenting can actually provide your kids with a whole new set of perspectives, outlooks, and skills. Here’s how to turn co-parenting from headache to awesome.
So, what is co-parenting?
The term co-parenting refers to bringing up your kid or kids, with an ex-partner. Whether you’re separated or divorced, at times co-parenting can be challenging, sometimes hurtful – especially if you’ve had a difficult split – and others darn right difficult. However, despite the pitfalls, co-parenting can offer a whole host of positives too.
The benefits of co-parenting
For kids, co-parenting can mean more quality time spent with both parents who want to make the most of the time they have together. It can mean even more adventures and two sets of bedrooms to get messy. Beyond that, for children who see their parents working out conflicts smoothly, it can teach them new and valuable communication and negotiating skills.
Often co-parents, find that they have better communication with their children, as, if dealt with well, deeper rooted issues are more out in the open – experts often say this decreases the risk of tricky teenage behavior later in life. Bonus!
How to co-parent well
Whether you’re new to the task, or you’ve been co-parenting with an ex for a while, you’ll probably have all sorts of doubts and concerns about whether you’re doing the right thing for your kids. From negotiating everything from different parenting styles to sharing parental responsibilities – and who has to be lumbered with that noisy hamster – co-parenting is often a rollercoaster of emotion, compromise, and logistics.
But don’t worry, we have your back.
Here we talk to two co-parents who are in the thick of it; Moms making the best of their joint parenting situation who’ve shared some helpful and honest co-parenting tips…
Mom in-the-know Becky has three lively girls, all thriving in a joint parenting situation. Here she shares her pearls of co-parenting wisdom:
- Don’t sweat the small stuff – “Accept that your partner might never do things your way exactly. Instead focus on the big stuff and try to align on those points.”
- R.E.S.P.E.C.T – “Be respectful of each other’s time and finances. Share the financial burden of things like Christmas, school trips and birthday parties.”
- Keep in touch – “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t maintain a relationship with your in-laws. For a lot of people losing a whole family is harder than losing a partner.”
- Be realistic – “If you really can’t stand each other, work together initially to ensure you don’t need to overlap too much.”
Lifecake user Danielle, is Mom to Flora, 2. She’s been co-parenting for the past year. Here are her five co-parenting tips:
- Look ahead – “From the beginning, we sat down and tried to foresee any possible issues that may arise. This was so we could be on the same page if they cropped up. Especially when it came to new relationships. We wanted to make sure we were agreed on when would be a suitable time for Flora to be aware, so it would have minimal effect on her.”
- Set some boundaries – “We are lucky to still be able to have a friendly relationship. We still enjoy family time together. But we’ve had to set boundaries, know where to draw the line, and not allow it to be overstepped! Respecting one another’s privacy, and remembering that now we are separated our relationship has completely changed, to where we don’t need to be involved in every detail of each other’s lives anymore. That’s a difficult transition.”
- Be flexible – “We try to be flexible and accommodate one another. Set days are great most of the time. It means Flora has a routine and knows what to expect week to week. But when we need flexibility, it’s good to know we can shift things around occasionally. It’s usually appreciated and reciprocated, and so long as Flora sees us the same amount each week, she’s happy.”
- Remain a team – “We regularly chat and try to agree on the same parenting technique for Flora’s stage in life. We make sure we discipline or reward her in the same or similar ways as one another to avoid any confusion, and so Flora sees us as being on the same team. Ultimately we have the same interests at heart, and that’s what’s important.”
- Build some trust – “This has been one of the most difficult things for me, having always been Flora’s primary caregiver. But I’ve had to try to trust that her Dad will parent as we’ve agreed and that he wouldn’t do anything he knows I wouldn’t be happy with. I’m a massive control freak so have found this most difficult!”
So, while your relationship might be over, your family is most certainly not. It may be helpful to start thinking of your relationship with your ex as a completely new one. A relationship entirely centered on the well-being of your kids, and not about either of you.
Along the way, it’s important to remind yourself that you won’t get it right all of the time. And you’ll no doubt have your fair share of highs and lows. “I have to regularly remind myself that it’s not going to be perfect” adds Danielle, “after all, there’s a reason we aren’t together! But if we communicate well it will be much easier.”