Co-Parenting is two adults who have had a child together and work as a team to parent their child. Any way you look at it being a parent is hard. But there are things that you can do as coparents to make the journey smoother.
The first step is to learn communication. Communication is the key in any kind of relationship, but it is at the very center of co-parenting. Being able to have open communication with the other parent will allow for seamless transitions and more structure for the child. It will allow both parents to be on the same page. What happens at one house, will happen at the other. This does mean that as parents you will have to agree on your parenting styles, and that will take a long and deep conversation. Here are some ways to open communication with the other parent.
- Have the willingness to have a sit-down, face-to-face, conversation. This allows you to pick up on nonverbal cues and body language. Seeing the person, you are speaking to helps you to better understand the meaning of their words.
- Focus on what is in your control. It is hard as a parent to accept you cannot have control over what happens in the other house. Remaining positive and making sure your child is safe will be key here.
- Ask questions, but don’t blame or shame. Instead of saying “Why is my child eating so much junk food? Do you feed them anything else?” Ask questions that create a conversation. “Hey, can we talk about our child’s diet?” “When is a good time for you to talk about an appropriate bedtime?” Creating a conversation will open the communication pathways and allow for a more productive conversation.
Once you have a good handle on communication remember that you must actively keep that communication going. The goal is to keep the communication open so that you both can talk effectively about what is best for your child. Communication will evolve as the Coparenting relationship grows.
The next step is to remember to stay child-focused. This is especially important at the beginning of the co-parenting relationship. When you talk make sure that it’s strictly about the child and the child’s best interests. Set schedules for pick up and drop off, and have a clear set of expectations on this, that way there are no misunderstandings.
The next step will be to set consistency in these areas:
- Medical Needs
- Financial Responsibilities
- Living Arrangements
Agreeing on these subjects will allow for less friction and more open communication. However, agreeing on how to handle rules, schedules, or discipline doesn’t mean that you lose the right to have boundaries. In fact, healthy boundaries are a must in all co-parenting relationships. Here are some examples of what those can look like:
- Keeping the child out of conflict. Don’t argue in front of the child or take bad about the other parent to the child.
- Don’t talk about your personal life with the other parent. Keep it strictly about the child.
- Set expectations on parenting time, including birthdays and holidays. It’s okay to do these events separately.
- Avoid posting negative things on social media.
- Last, but most important of all, never put the kids in the middle. Don’t ask them to keep secrets or to give you information about the other parent.
If you struggle to agree on boundaries right for your family it’s okay to reach outside your circle for advice through your county’s Clerk of Court’s office, or a neutral third party like a family counselor, self-help programs, parenting podcasts, and some volunteer attorneys.
There are many resources out there for parents to explore what co-parenting is, and how to effectively execute the co-parenting plan for their family. Here are some examples:
“The Co-Parenting Handbook” By: Karen Bonnell
“Mindful Co-Parenting” By: Jeremy S. Gaies, Psy.D and James B. Morris, Jr., Ph.D
“Co-Parenting with Confidence” with Mikki Gardner
“Parenting Beyond Discipline” with Erin Royer, MA
Coparenting isn’t easy and may not be for everyone. It means having open communication, healthy boundaries, patience, and cooperation between both parents. If you can successfully get to that point, the effect it has on your child will be life-changing for them. They will see their parents as a unit, a team, rather than separate forces. Structure for a child is important, giving coparenting a shot will help you create that structure for your child. As the co-parenting relationship grows, it is susceptible to change, so remember to keep open communication and you will likely be successful.
At Mountain Vista Psychology, we know how challenging having learning differences can be, therefore, we and are here to help. Take the first step and call our office at 720-583-9332. You can make your appointment or we offer a 20-minute free phone consultation to discuss your needs.