We all want our kids to be raised as decent human beings—even after a divorce or a break-up. But guess what? It’s not as easy as it sounds at all! Just having to get along with an ex-spouse (especially the toxic ex-wife or husband) is tough when you can’t even be on the same page. With that being said, your children can grow up as decent humans who will respect their partners in the future. The best way to do so is co-parenting, and we’ve gathered the best co-parenting tips for you. Read on to know more.
What is Co-Parenting?
Back in the day before the invention of divorce, it would’ve been unimaginable to try and raise kids with someone you used to share a bed with. But along with lifestyle changes came modern parenting. Co-parenting is the act of raising kids with an ex-partner you can still have a productive relationship with despite living apart from each other. Whether the co-parents become the best of friends or not, they still know how to interact with each other and solve problems together.
For some divorced parents, though, hell will have to freeze over before they can attempt to maintain a civilised relationship with an ex-partner, especially if that ex just won the child custody battle. That’s why some opt for a different kind of co-parenting setup which is called parallel parenting. It’s the best option for two co-parents who can never problem-solve together, much less interact with each other without starting World War III. In this situation, they try to raise their kids as far apart from each other without having to be in direct contact with one another. You might have already seen it in the movies where partners in the joint custody of the kids pick them up on certain days of the week to spend time at their respective homes.
Staying together for the kids may not just be possible for some couples. But a broken family is not an ideal setup for any child. That’s why co-parenting is the best solution to maintain any semblance of a two-parent family. You might start telling yourself that you hate being a mother for it. But for as long as co-parenting rules are followed, raising kids in that setup is not impossible.
The Effects of an Ensuing Divorce or Break-Up to the Children
When couples can no longer agree with each other and end up arguing most of the time, sometimes, the healthiest option for them would be to split up. Some couples part in peaceful and simple ways. Others insist on going through fierce divorce battles. While this is all for the good of the ex-partners, what damage does it do to the children?
According to Amy Morin from Very Well Family, a divorce can have serious psychological effects on the kids ranging from behavioural issues, emotional stress, poor academic performance, and risk-taking behaviors:
1. Behavioural Issues
Kids from divorced parents tend to behave poorly than kids from two-parent families. They become more aggressive after a divorce and may have less impulse control than others. They also become increasingly antisocial and increasingly delinquent. Fights may break out more than usual, even with their own friends.
2. Emotional Stress
Going through a divorce is a traumatic experience for children that brings massive emotional stress. They may feel that it’s their fault the parents are splitting, or they may end up resenting one or both parents for it. At a young age, they don’t understand yet why they’re seeing less of the parent who lost the custody battle. As they get older and begin to have a better understanding of the situation, they tend to get more depressed than others.
3. Poor Academic Performance
Research shows that kids who expect a divorce in their family still do well at school. But for the unexpected divorce setup, their academic performance tends to decline.
4. Risk-taking Behaviours
Kids from divorced families tend to seek comfort in risk-taking activities such as drugs, early sexual activity, and alcohol among others. This may be caused by the heavy emotional stress that they are going through.
These are known risks involved when going through a divorce. And as they get older, they may retain these behaviours. It may even become a perpetual cycle of emotional stress that can go on for several years. However, through co-parenting, you can help avoid your kids from going through emotional and psychological trauma.
Why Co-Parenting Will Be Great for You
Co-parenting helps maintain any semblance of a two-parent family. It helps them adjust and cope through the entire emotional process. However, it is not just about the kids as what you may originally think. It’s also a process that helps both sides of the party.
1. Kids can Emulate Their Parents’ Positive Traits
We all know that whatever the kids see, they tend to emulate it. If they see their parents getting all fussy with each other, they tend to fuss around, whether it’s about eating lunch or potty training. But when they see their parents being agreeable and resolving issues peacefully, they’ll know the real meaning of respect.
2. They Feel Less Guilty About Themselves
When they see their parents split, often, kids feel it’s about them even if it’s not. Other times, they feel they may be taking too much of the other their parents’ time. At school, they may start to wonder who will be there to show up when the situation calls for it. Co-parenting reduces the kids’ guilt when they know their parents are working hand-in-hand to make things better for them. As such, they can live freely and feel normal around other kids.
3. They Won’t Have to See Less of The Other Parent
Child custody means the kids will be with the parent who won the battle (in most cases, the mom) most of the time. That means there will be less exposure to the parent who didn’t win the battle. This leads to abandonment issues causing serious emotional stress and internal anger. But with co-parenting, they can still continue to interact with the other parent and won’t have to suffer emotional stresses that ensue a divorce.
4. Co-Parents can Be There for Each Other Through Tough Times
Anyone raising their kids alone knows that it’s tougher than what anyone may be telling you. When tough decisions have to be made, no one will be there to help you out. Although co-parenting doesn’t solve financial problems, knowing that you still have the support system that you need when a situation arises despite the fact that you’re no longer together is comforting. It also gives you the peace of mind that your ex-partner will be there for your kids no matter what.
5. One Parent Will Start Trusting The Other More
Admittedly, we doubt our ex-partner’s co-parenting skills—and that’s normal! We wonder if they love them enough or whether the visitations would only bring more bad than good. Do they know what to do when traveling with babies? Do they know what food the kids are allergic to? However, co-parenting allows you to look at your ex-partner in a new light, and may even reconsider your initial assessment of him or her.
6. Co-Parents Have the Luxury of Getting a Break from Parenting
Parenting is stressful. Though it’s a little sinful, we all feel guilty about wishing that there’s at least one day we can take a break from being a mom or a dad. Co-parenting can give you that much-needed break once in a while. On days that your ex-partner picks up the kids from your home, you can do whatever you want that you couldn’t when you’re with the kids. Take yourself out to dinner. Go watch the movies. Take a long, hot bubble bath. Reward yourself once in a while. You deserve it super mom/super dad!
Divorce proceedings can be ugly. And while everyone is trying to adjust to the new normal, the psychological toll on the kids may be greater than you think. However, this is by no means any way to discourage you from having kids. Before you start thinking twice about it, know that the joy in being a mom and having a baby is incomparable.
What Are Off-Limits When Co-Parenting?
We’ve all asked ourselves this question: Can two people who already split up really raise their kids together peacefully? You may think it’s hard—impossible even. But with proper rules and boundaries coupled with respect and open communication, the task at hand, whether it’s shopping for newborn baby essentials or hiring a nanny, becomes less challenging.
Trying to Be Intimate with The Ex
The first thing that you need to remind yourself of is that the relationship ended for a reason. Therefore, trying to save a failed relationship through false intimacy would only widen the rift between you two even further. It’s just not the same anymore. You might think that you want it, but the ex-partner might disagree. And the last thing that you want is a restraining order to your name.
Imposing Rules That are Inconvenient to The Other Parent
The children are always the front and center of our lives. However, it’s best to realise that you and your partner also have your own private lives. So imposing rules that would conflict with the ex-spouse’s already busy schedule would only create false expectations and bring disappointments to the child. It’s a counterintuitive move that would make co-parenting harder for both of you.
Involving Third-Parties on Important Decisions
Co-parenting is hard enough for both ex-partners. Imagine if third party members (especially toxic grandparents) try to involve themselves in the decision-making process. It messes up the plans that both of you have come to an agreement with. And for people who don’t know your relationship dynamic before the divorce nor understand what it’s like to co-parent, wrong decisions could be made. Not only does it affect you, the ex-spouse, and the future stepparents, but it also affects your children. So make sure to keep the decision-making process between the two of you private.
Prying on The Co-Parent’s Private Life
Again, both of you have your own private space. If your partner starts dating someone else, probably someone who also has kids, don’t put yourself in between that relationship. Though the fears are not totally unfounded, understand that for as long as you maintain a healthy relationship with your kids, there is no way that the new partner will replace you in your children’s lives.
Bad-Mouthing the Co-Parent
Kids emulate what they see. If they see you show signs of disrespect to your ex-partner, they will believe that the ex-partner is also unworthy of respect. Be careful about how you act around your kids. The last thing that you want is a grown-up who doesn’t know how to respect an ex-partner.
Although there are massive gains that can be obtained through co-parenting, these are all meaningless if both of you are unaware of your boundaries. But, does co-parenting only guarantee benefits? Or is there an ugly side to it that we don’t know of?
The Drawbacks of Co-Parenting
No one truly knows how difficult something is until they’ve tried it for themselves. Co-parenting is harder than it looks. And as much as we want to make the journey easy for everyone, there are some potential consequences that you need to know for you to avoid.
More Encounters, More Fights
You’ve already butted heads once before and you’re bound to do it again. Things didn’t work out previously and may still continue to do so even after breaking up! The only difference between then and now is that you no longer live under the same roof. Debates and arguments will still continue to break out. And they could be something as serious as tuition shares or something as simple as the great dummy debate! But don’t sweat it. Again, kids emulate what they see. So when you smell storm a-brewin’, simply bob and weave.
It’s A Hassle
The setup is not the same as when you were still a two-parent family. Therefore, you need to accept that both co-parents also have to make A LOT of changes in their lives. You need to move around a lot, pick up and drop off the kids on your designated days, come to an agreement with your ex-partner on so many things even if it feels impossible, among others! But if it means being there for your child, it’s all worth it.
No More Moving Around Places as You Please
Since you have both come to an agreement to rear the child together, that means putting your ex-partner and the kids in the equation when you decide to move out. Being a co-parent doesn’t mean you’re single again. It means you’re single again but with attachments. For every decision that you make, those attachments have to be part of the process.
It’s Just Not for Everyone
Co-parenting is ideal if the relationship is just not working anymore. But just because it is, doesn’t mean everybody should try it. There are times when single parenting is just better. If you can’t be on the same page or maintain a civilised relationship with the ex-partner no matter what, co-parenting may bring more bad than good to the children. Forcing it just because you want what’s best for the children may be unhealthy for you and your family.
We all want to be better parents for our children. We all want someone they can look up to and be proud of. But if you’re unsure about what kind of setup is good for your children, it’s best to consult a family lawyer to ensure a better child development.
Tips for Better Co-Parenting
There may be times when you start to have some parenting regrets about having kids. There may also be moments when you feel like you’re the best mom or dad in the world. But the one thing that all moms and dads out there want are to be better parents or co-parents and ultimately become their heroes. So how do you make sure you can co-parent with your ex? Here are top ten tips to have a harmonious relationship with your co-parent:
1. Make Communication Constant
We’ve said it enough and we’re going to say it again. Nothing beats being open about anything and everything that concerns the kids. From food, studying, to fights, each co-parent would want to know what is going on in their children’s lives. You don’t have to ask about anything other than the kids. If the issues remain unaddressed because one co-parent didn’t divulge such information, it can have a tremendous impact on the children. So talk to each other. You don’t have to talk like how you did when you were still two months in the relationship. The key is to be civil and be respectful of each other.
2. Know Your Boundaries
There are certain lines that you shouldn’t cross when dealing with your co-parent. Remember that although you shared a past with each other, you are now your own person. And that means letting your ex be when making private decisions. If these decisions don’t affect the children’s welfare, it’s best to mind your own business. You can think about it this way: if you started going out with someone else, you wouldn’t want your ex-partner to be all up in your business, disrupting your plans, would you?
3. Put the Kids Front and Center in Every Contact
That’s the beauty of co-parenting. No need to engage yourself in small talk with the ex. If talking with them still feels awkward with you, you need only talk about your kids. No need for the warm fuzzies. You’re not in a relationship with the ex anymore. Disengage if you want to and if the conversation leads to something else.
4. Approach it Like You Would a Business Deal
This may be easier than it sounds. But in a co-parenting relationship, the last thing that you want is to be emotionally engaged with your ex. It’s harder to be flexible, harder to talk, and harder to be objective. Remove all the emotional attachments and plan it out as business-like as you possibly can. Keep it simple.
5. Forget the Hate and Agression
Your emotional scars may still be fresh. So detaching yourself from the hate is hard but necessary. It’s not just about you anymore. And the best possible thing you can do is to let go of all the negativity.
6. Make Decisions for The Child’s Best Interest
Never make decisions alone. It’s a team effort. And just like any great team, a collaboration of ideas is always best. One-sided decisions only breeds conflict between the two co-parents. And not only do you need to collaborate, but you also need to put the child at the core of that decision-making process. It also doesn’t make sense to decide on things that would put your child at risk or at a disadvantage.
7. Provide a Loving Environment for The Kid to Grow Up In
No one in their right mind seeks out discomfort. It’s natural for us to want to live as comfortably as possible. When a child grows up in an environment full of love and care, that child will grow up to be a loving person as well. The same goes for the opposite, too. So, as much as possible, try to simulate that kind of warm environment when you’re around your kids.
8. Be Consistent
Missing out on soccer practice once is fine. Missing out twice is okay. But thrice or more is unacceptable. Neither one of you wants to explain to the children why dad or mom is not here to see them play. So be consistent and always be there for the kids.
9. Meet Each Other Halfway
It is virtually impossible to try and meet all of the co-parent’s demands. Unless you have found a way to split your body into two, no one can do everything. Try not to expect that your ex will perfectly perform their responsibilities. Be flexible and understanding. Compromise and know that the ex has a life of their own.
10. Have a Solid Co-Parenting Plan
No one is ready to be a parent, much less a co-parent. But once you map out schedules, communication details, the children’s school activities, etc., the process becomes a whole lot easier. A flawless plan is impossible, but you can at least make it smoother.
It’s tough to be a parent. But much tougher to be a single or co-parent. At times, you’d have to deal with the stress and the sleepless nights all on your own. But having that support system from your ex-partner even if you’re at odds with each other can spell all the difference and can make parenthood a rewarding experience for you.