Separation or divorce can be a challenging time for parents and their children.
It’s a major life change that affects everyone within the family circle and because of this, many concerned parents worry about how their children will adjust.
Dedicated parents want to have a healthy, active role in their children’s lives regardless of whether they want to end the romantic relationship with each other.
Though finding a new sense of normalcy following separation (or in preparation for separation) is a daunting task, there are several tips for co-parenting to keep in mind along the way.
What is Co-Parenting?
Co-parenting refers to the shared duties and responsibilities of raising children between parents who are no longer in a romantic relationship.
Excluding special cases where serious substance abuse and/or domestic violence threaten safety, experts state that children thrive best when they have close relationships with both of their parents.
Maintaining a high-quality relationship between children and their parents plays an important role in healthy mental, emotional, and social development.
However, it can be extremely difficult for parents to get along when the issues that led to their separation are still fresh in the minds of both parties.
Challenges of Co-Parenting
Parents want what’s best for their children, but in the wake of a painful separation from the other parent, setting aside differences in favor of co-parenting may be easier said than done.
The following challenges may play a role in making co-parenting difficult:
- Animosity between parents. If the separation was caused by a particularly painful event, it might take time for anger to fade.
- Negativity in front of the children. When emotions get in the way, one parent may speak negatively to or about the other parent in front of the children.
- Frequent disagreements. Oftentimes, people who are separating go through changes in behavior that may lead to frequent disagreements when it comes to how the children are raised/disciplined.
- One parent breaks co-parenting rules. It’s easy to become angry or annoyed when one parent either mistakenly or deliberately breaks rules previously agreed upon.
- Guilt about the separation. Though between 40-50% of marriages end in divorce, going through it personally can make the situation feel isolating and inspire feelings of guilt regarding the whole event.
Though it seems impossible at the moment, co-parenting is possible, even when it’s hard to get along with the other parent.
When parents put the needs and well-being of their children ahead of the issues they’re facing, time and experience can aid in making the process easier.
To work with your child’s other parent effectively, consider the following tips for co-parenting:
- Consider the impact of your words/actions. Even if you’re angry at your former partner, try to keep your children the central focus of your interactions. Avoid name-calling and starting arguments for the sake of having the last word, even if your children are not present at the time.
- Be flexible. Especially in the beginning, it’s a good idea to be flexible and understand sudden changes that take place as both parents get accustomed to custody schedules.
- Treat each other with respect. You do not have to like your child(ren)’s other parents, but it’s crucial to treat each other with respect whether you’re in front of your children or not.
- Be available to communicate. If you and your ex are able to speak to each other without out-of-control arguments, it’s wise to keep yourselves available to communicate with the other about aspects of the children’s lives.
- Be polite to the other parent’s partner. If the other parent has entered a new romantic relationship, do your best to be polite to this individual.
- Do not compete with each other. Your goal is not to be a better parent or have more of your children’s love than the other parent. The goal of both parents should be to serve as the healthiest, most loving parent that their ability allows.
- Seek support. Even after following tips for co-parenting, you may be struggling, and that’s okay. You should feel welcome to seek support from a network of parents in your position, or professionals experienced in assisting with these situations. You could choose to join a co-parenting support group, take part in a co-parenting class, enter playgroups centered around single parenting and/or co-parenting, or visit a licensed therapist who is experienced in co-parenting matters. It’s extra beneficial if the other parent is willing to join groups, take classes, or seek therapy as well.
Remember, co-parenting works best when both parents are mature, dedicated to their children, and willing to work together for positive outcomes.
If you’d like to seek support for your co-parenting needs, you’re welcome to contact our offices as soon as you’re ready. We’ve helped many people struggling with co-parenting and we would be honored to help your partner, too.
Please feel free to book a complimentary 20-minute consultation with one of our licensed therapists if you know who you would like to work with, or you can book a consult call with our center’s clinical intake coordinator who will match you to the best-fitting therapist for your clinical and logistical needs.