Co-parenting after a separation or divorce can be challenging, but it is essential to try and maintain a working relationship with your ex-partner for the sake of your children. Of course, it is not always possible, especially if you are overcoming trauma caused by abuse or adultery, so co-parenting in these instances will take different approaches. Here are some strategies to help you overcome common co-parenting hurdles, and raise your children peacefully as partners in parenting.
Most people don’t enter parenthood with the intention of co-parenting, so it is not surprising that you might feel lost or out of your depth. Be kind to yourself and have patience, both with yourself and your co-parent, and understand that this is a journey and co-parenting is something you can both get better at as you go along. Think back to when you started your last job: you didn’t click with your colleagues straight away but as you go you learn how to work together smoothly and get the best results possible. (Unfortunately, you can’t quit this partnership, so learning to work together as well as possible is your only option!)
In the book How To Be A Happy Single Parent by Frolo founder Zoë Desmond and Rebecca Cox, you’ll find an entire chapter on successful co-parenting, with expert advice from Aaron Dale He says: ‘The first thing I always say to people is: “You’re a parent first, you’re not a co-parent.” When we hear the term “co-parent”, we automatically start to think about the other parent and the dynamic with that person. But our role is to parent, to raise this child from infancy to adulthood. Co-parent just means that me and the other parent are no longer together. That’s the only difference; my role hasn’t changed.’ You can hear more from Aaron, along with techniques and tactics to improve your co-parenting relationship by ordering a copy of the book here.
You are not alone in your co-parenting struggles! Seek connection with other people in your situation on the Frolo app. You can use the advanced search functions to connect with other co-parents, and there is a co-parenting group chat where you can raise issues and seek advice from other people navigating the same problems and dilemmas. You can even search for other co-parents on Frolo Dating to find a teammate in navigating shared roadblocks!
If it’s hard to work as a team, remember, your child's well-being should be your top priority. As co-parents, you should focus on what's happening now with your children, not what happened before between the two of you. Fixating on past conflicts or mistakes can create more tension and make it harder to move forward. Instead, focus on what you can do now to support your child's needs.
While it's essential to work to end conflict, being afraid of it altogether may create more harm than good. Being scared of conflict may cause a person to become more defensive or irritated than they normally would be in a conversation. If you sense a conversation that could create conflict, keep calm in order to reduce the tension that could make this situation go from a discussion to a full-on dispute.
Misunderstandings can lead to conflict, so it's essential to clarify what your co-parent is saying or asking for. Don't assume that you know what they mean or what they want. Instead, ask questions to clarify their intentions and avoid misunderstandings.
Using tools to support your efforts in attaining clear, peaceful communication can be a great help. For example, consider using a co-parenting app like OurFamilyWizard to keep track of schedules, share important information, and communicate with your co-parent in a neutral, organised way.
The purpose of emails and texts between co-parents is to deliver facts and logistics, not to lash out at each other. Keeping your messages simple and devoid of emotion will help maintain an amicable co-parenting relationship. If you receive a nasty message, don't respond immediately. Take some time to cool down and respond when you're feeling more level-headed, and if possible, avoid text communication altogether since it is easy to misread tone from a message in a way that could be avoided by a face to face or telephone conversation.
If you're struggling to communicate with your co-parent or resolve conflicts, consider seeking professional help. A mediator or therapist can help you work through your issues and develop strategies for effective co-parenting. Working individually with a therapist can be really helpful in dealing with anxiety around co-parenting and learning how to implement boundaries in your relationship with your child’s other parent.
Don't speak badly about your co-parent, especially to your children. Remember, the way your kids interpret your negativity about their other parent is you ridiculing a part of them. They can't help that they share DNA with a person you may not like or respect. The "co" in "co-parenting" means "together, mutually in common." "Cooperation," "compromise," "co-exist," and "communication" all start with "co," and each lends itself to a successful co-parenting relationship.
If it is impossible to work together, such as where there is constant conflict, or a history of abuse, co-parenting may not be feasible. If you need to completely cut contact with your child’s other parent, you may be better off running your households completely separately. This is known as ‘parallel parenting’ and means that both parents make autonomous decisions about how their children are parented while they are with them, without consulting with the other parent or ensuring there are common parenting goals. If you need to adopt this method, you should not see yourself as a failure, just remember that your children need consistency to feel safe, and they will have this by having reliable boundaries at your home, as well as at their other parents, even if there are different parameters for these.
A updated version of Frolo is now available for the best possible app experience, with features on that include enhanced discovery settings, 'Find me on Frolo' and the ability to share meetups and group chats outside the app, plus the ability to post anonymously on Community and to see all your likes in one place with unlimited likes on Dating mode.