Basically co-parenting boils down to “cooperative parenting” or parenting together. It is a firmly held belief with professionals that children fare better when parents can minimize any trauma during and after their divorce and can communicate, cooperate, and compromise with consistency.
I realize not everyone ends their relationship amicably. It would be great for them and their children if that were possible, but unfortunately, it isn’t always. Co-parenting is even more difficult when a marriage ends with hostility. However, it is extremely important for your children that any animosity be put aside. You have to put your children’s needs and best interests ahead of your own hurt feelings, anger and bitterness.
How do you do this? Respect. You may not like the other parent very much at this time and may even be imagining all sorts of dastardly endings for him or her (hey…no one said you can’t imagine, just don’t do!), but this person is still a parent to your child. And your child loves them every bit as much as they love you. Right? Of course they do.
Because of that fact alone, you each deserve respect from the other. You each owe the other respect as the other half of a parenting team. If you can remember this is about your children and not what he or she did or didn’t do during your relationship, you will triumph. And most importantly your children will suffer the least amount of emotional harm.
Here are some ways to show your ex some respect and minimize stress in co-parenting:
- Provide the other parent with any important information about your child: doctor appointments, medical issues, medications, school issues, report cards, emotional issues, etc.
- Give the other parent enough time to make arrangements to attend appointments or events: doctor, parent-teacher, school programs, sports, dance or other extracurricular activities.
- Make them a part of any major decisions. Give them all pertinent information. Get their input. Try to come up with a solution that you both can live with and that is best for your child.
- Be flexible. Allow the other parent to have time not designated in the court order for special events. Switch access periods when asked if it won’t interfere with something you have planned. Allow for the unexpected or the special times. Remember: it’s not about you. It’s about your children.
- When calling or emailing, focus on your child. Do not bring up past events. They are in the past and need to stay there. Rehashing them will do nothing but cause friction and more problems.
- When at appointments or events, speak politely with your ex and any person(s) with them. Do not ignore them. Do not instruct your child to ignore them. In short, be respectful.
I know in some cases this will be very difficult. But I truly believe the more you practice this, the easier it will become for both parties. You may even find that you’re imagining less pain-filled scenarios.
For those of you that have been through this, what ways have you found to cope? What are some of your co-parenting suggestions? Do you find that by showing respect, you’re respected more in return?
*NOTE: Here’s my typical disclaimer for these posts–I am not an attorney. These opinions are mine alone and are based on my years of experience working within the family court system. They are not meant as legal advice nor as representative of anyone else’s opinion. If you need legal advice (and I believe if you’re involved in child custody litigation, you really do), please consult with an attorney.