Most of us never set out to be co-parents. So when we find ourselves in this new role it can be extremely challenging – especially if you’ve had a difficult separation from your ex.
It may be hard, but we humans are adaptable creatures and there are ways to make your co-parenting work better whatever your circumstances.
Even if basic communication with your ex seems impossible right now, remember the old wisdom that time is a great healer (it’s true), take it one step at a time and use the following tips for co-parenting success.
1. Think Positive: Being a co-parent can be brilliant!
This may not be what you planned but it is your reality right now, so get your head around your ‘new normal’ and frame it positively.
If you’re co-parenting as a result of splitting with the other parent, remember that the breakdown of that relationship doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you or that you’re a bad parent. Relationships end, that’s just part of life.
This is the next part of your parenting journey, so think of it as a new beginning, with new opportunities and possibilities ahead.
2. Put your children first
This is the most important point of all and it’s the one to come back to again and again in those tricky moments. Even if your relationship with your co-parent is difficult, make a decision to cooperate and remember that cooperating does not necessarily mean being friends.
It might not be easy, in fact it might be a huge effort to co-parent together but you can do it, for the sake of your child.
To put it simply, it comes down to loving your child more than you hate or dislike your ex.
3. Figure out your best way of communicating
Depending on the state of your relationship with your ex, one method of communication might work better than another.
If your relationship is strained communicate in writing for now and focus on the practical arrangements for your children – this means everything is on record and conversations are less likely to get emotional.
For some, face-to-face or speaking on the phone is better as sometimes our tone of voice can be misinterpreted in text messages.
Whatever your method of communication, keep it polite and respectful.
4. Have a plan
Once you’ve figured out your method of communication, you’ll need to make a plan. Your plan for co-parenting might cover your schedules, holidays, and special events, the children’s medical needs, education, and finances.
If you’re planning for trips or holidays, keep communication channels open and give as much advance notice as possible. Think about the holiday conversation as a dialogue to explore how you will both make it work best for all of you, rather than an announcement of what you’re doing and how they need to fit in with that.
5. Once you have your plan – be prepared for change
Always be flexible – unexpected things will come up for both parents and if you can be accommodating to your ex, it’s much more likely to be reciprocated.
Be aware also that how you co-parent will change as your children get older. In addition to your usual communication you might want to have a longer check in every 6 months or so to see if there’s anything in your plan you want to update.
6. Support one another…
…as much as is possible within the context of your relationship. If you can work together, everyone will benefit. It might help to look at this as a work relationship – at work you may have a team member with whom you don’t see eye to eye but you are both working towards a common goal, so you make it work.
If you see the other parent doing well, compliment them. Positive reinforcement is a key ingredient to positive co-parenting. Always aim to be respectful and kind.
7. Build up a support group
We all need support, whether it’s family or friends, virtual or in-person. Co-parenting is tricky so don’t try to go it alone – we’re designed to work better in community, so don’t be afraid to ask for help and to offer support to others.
Download the Frolo app to find a welcoming community of single parents and a friendly space for support, advice and chat. Head to the Co-parents Group Chat in the app for easy access support from others who will be navigating the same territory as you.
And remember, when you become a co-parent, you don’t stop being a parent, you just stop being in a relationship with the person that you have had children with. You’ve got this.
If you’re finding single parenting challenging right now, head over to our blog 7 Ways to Deal with Overwhelm as a Single Parent