Co-parenting helps your kids feel safe, secure and loved. However, it can be challenging to work with an ex-spouse while keeping in mind what is best for your children.
Finding balance and a way to communicate effectively with your co-parent is essential to your child’s wellbeing. It is worth the effort to try to keep the family dynamics in place while also serving the needs of your children.
Here is a helpful guide on the do’s and don’ts of co-parenting.
Some things you can do to create a healthy co-parenting environment for your children are:
- Develop a healthy communication style with your co-parent. Communication may be one of the hardest things to do but one of the most valuable in making the co-parenting thing work. Agree to discuss all issues that arise with the children openly. Make time for communication and make it a top priority.
- Be consistent with everything. Work out a plan with your ex so that rules stay the same in both houses. Kids thrive on consistency and need to know they cannot “get away” with something at the other parent’s home or work parents against one another.
- Set boundaries with your ex. Keep things as professional as possible as a business arrangement and if your ex, crosses the lines, assertively but kindly remind he or she where your limits are.
- Always put the child first and think about the effect of your own behavior and your relationship with your ex, before taking action or saying something. If you let your child’s wellbeing be your guide, making tough choices or swallowing your pride will be easier. Prioritize your child over yourself for the best outcome for everyone.
- Agree with your co-parent that both of you will not speak badly about the other. Respect in a co-parenting relationship is essential for your children. If your kids put down the other parent, correct them and let them know that is not ok, even if you secretly feel good about it.
Below are some things you never want to do in a co-parenting relationship:
- Don’t sabotage your child’s relationship with their other parent. Not only is it not fair to your child, often the child will end up resenting you for it rather than your ex-spouse. It is critically important for a child to have healthy relationships with both their parents. Step up and be the adult and never speak ill of your ex-partner in front of the kids.
- Do not make your child choose sides or burden them with trash talk about the other parent. They love both their parents and they see themselves as a combination of you both. Therefore when you put down your ex-spouse, your child feels as though you are putting them down as well. Children need to be allowed to be kids and not deal with grown-up problems.
- Don’t use your child to manipulate your ex. The only one that gets hurt here is your kid. Using your child as a bargaining chip is one of the worst things you can do in a co-parenting situation. Remember, your kids are people with feelings and choices of their own, not objects.
- Do not immediately accuse your ex and start a fight. If you find out about something they have done or said, first, ask for a calm discussion before jumping into angry and hurt emotions and immediately initiate an argument. Good communication is what is best for the children, and they can sense conflict and negative feelings even when you don’t talk about it.
- Never transfer your hurt and angry feelings towards your co-parent onto your children. Your kids are already dealing with the loss of the family unit and this new way of life. They need your support, love, and trust to navigate these new tricky waters of life.
There is no doubt that co-parenting is sometimes hard, but it is healthier for your children to spend time with both parents and receive the benefit of both parent’s input on major life decisions.