When a couple gets engaged, they don't think that they're going to split up before their official big day...and once they're married, they're not exactly thinking that they're going to break up and go through a super messy divorce proceeding. It's exciting to plan for a romantic future and know that this is the person that's going to be there forever.
The same is true of couples who start a family: they're not assuming that they're going to get divorced and have to start the difficult process of co-parenting. Unfortunately, that's what happens sometimes, and even if a couple wants to stay together for the sake of the kids—which is often the party line in these types of situations—it can be best if a couple splits up if they're fighting all the time and not creating a positive environment.
There are ups and downs to co-parenting for sure and it's helpful to take a look at both sides of the story. Read on to find out everything that parents need to know about co-parenting: 10 ways that it can be challenging and 10 ways that parents can figure out how to work together. After all, regardless of the relationship, a couple has to work together to raise the children.
20 Challenging: Family Gatherings Are Tricky
One co-parenting challenge is the complicated world of family gatherings.
As one dad posted on Reddit, things got tricky when his wife was attending her grandma's birthday celebration. He wasn't sure if he should go or not and asked for advice.
He wrote, "My wife and I have one son, and we are in the middle of a divorce. I have been seeing a therapist, and the therapist told me to stop doing things as a nuclear family unit. She advised me to absolutely do things for my son, and if that takes me around my wife, then that's ok. But I'm not sure where to draw that line."
It seems like there's no right or wrong answer here and that it's always going to be confusing in terms of whether you should go to a family party or not.
19 Challenging: Your Ex Might Not Be As Organized As You Are
Some people are super organized and always have everything in order; from work deadlines to social plans. While others... really aren't. When it comes to co-parenting, it sounds like you both need to be organized or it's going to be a challenge.
That's what happened to this mom who shared on Reddit, "I told my ex he can't take our kids out of town unless he gives me a schedule as I can't just sit around waiting for him to return. He told me he's picking them up Thursday morning and drop them off sometime Saturday before bed. This still just...pisses me off!" It definitely seems like many parents who are co-parenting can relate to that.
18 Challenging: You Have To Work Hard Not To Let Your Kids See/Hear You Get Upset
Things get complicated when couples fight in front of their children after they've split up. No kid wants to see that and it can cause a lot of negative feelings. It definitely seems like one of the hardest things about co-parenting is making sure that your children don't see the hurt that you two feel during the fall out.
As this parent shared on Reddit, "It takes two to make successful co-parenting work." They continued, "I see a ton of people on here with issues with their child's other parent. You can't always control that. It's not your fault. Just don't ever let that make you lash out because you are only hurting your children."
17 Challenging: You Feel Guilty
There is a lot of guilt involved when a couple isn't together anymore and have to live in two different places. Sometimes one parent stays in the house and the other gets an apartment, but it's smaller, so they can feel super guilty that this is where they are.
This happened to this mom on Reddit: "The apartment I have is much, much smaller but the best I could afford in my budget. Its clean and in a nice neighborhood, near their father and his family." She continued that she tried hard with the apartment and "Even with all that my kids HATE it here and it is breaking my heart. They want to go home, they want their dad."
16 Challenging: You Might Still Act Like You're Married
A dad shared on Reddit that his ex-wife and mother of his two kids were basically acting like they were still married because she kept asking him to do stuff for her.
He said, "I feel like I've been in the position of a convenient husband since the divorce. When she moved out, I kept the house, I helped. Assembled furniture carried things. When she went on vacation, my girls and I took care of her pets. Car troubles, I help. Etc.. This made me letting go, a long process. I don't feel like I'm obligated to do any of this."
It seems like this happens a lot since couples are comfortable helping each other out, but of course, this can be difficult since it is definitely time to move on.
15 Challenging: Good Communication Can Be Tricky
It's easy to say that a couple should communicate when they need to co-parent but since they aren't together anymore, it makes sense that communication might not be their strongest suit. There are a lot of hurt feelings and complicated thoughts throughout.
Poor communication can really make this whole co-parenting thing a challenge — as this parent shared on Reddit, "I've been separated from my kids father for six years.E takes weeks to respond to emails or texts I send. When we meet to swap the kids, it's Hi and Bye. He does not follow any of the request I make when the kids are with him."
14 Challenging: Your Ex Can Change Your Agreed Upon Schedule And Make Things Stressful
This parent shared on Reddit that their kids live with them full-time and live with their dad on Tuesdays, alternating weekends, and every other holiday. They were having a tough time because their ex was supposed to have the kids right after Thanksgiving and he texted her to say, "FYI I won't be in town for Thanksgiving weekend [SIC] do you want to switch weekends if not you will just have them 2 weekends in a row."
She had plans for that weekend and was upset that he was switching things around without really asking her. It's tough to parent without the other parent. If your ex changes the schedule even after you figured things out, that can be really tricky.
13 Challenging: Your Ex Might Ignore You And Have His New Partner Contact You
Co-parenting is only as good as the ex-couple's ability to communicate with each other. If one person ignores the other and refuses to have conversations, then it seems pretty much impossible to be a united front for the kid and figure things out.
What if your ex won't talk to you and has their new partner talk to you instead?
It sounds tough and it happened to this mom on Reddit. She said, "I'm having a hard time deciding what to do. My daughter's father won't talk to me. His wife does all of the talking for him. I need for us to establish a co-parenting plan. But I feel like two people are coming at me instead of him working with me."
12 Challenging: Figuring Out How You Both Get Custody When Your Ex Lives Far From Your Child's School
What does a divorced couple do when they share custody of their kid and their school is only close to one of their houses? It seems like an impossible situation and like there's no easy answer.
This parent shared on Reddit that they were going through this and weren't sure what to do. They said, "My ex lives 30 minutes away in another city. We share 50/50 custody of our 5-year-old. She starts kindergarten in the fall and we are just beginning to negotiate custody during the school year and summers." It sounds like there is no way that this wouldn't be stressful and challenging to figure out.
11 Challenging: Your Child Might Ask To Live With Your Ex Instead
Co-parenting can be heartbreaking since both parents (hopefully) want their child to live with them full-time and, of course, that's just not possible. A really challenging aspect of this situation is if the child wants to live with one parent over the other and tells them about it.
That's what happened to this mom who shared on Reddit that her daughter said she wants to live with her dad (who she mentioned didn't want her living there all the time). She said, "I’m not sure what to do. Every other week she’s going to be somewhere that she doesn’t want to be. She doesn’t understand that my world revolves around her, everything I do in life is to make sure she’s happy and healthy. I can’t sit back and let her talk to me the way she does, but when I set her straight it’s a problem."
10 You Can Send Emails As Your Main Way Of Talking To Each Other
Communication is key for anything, but particularly when parents are co-parenting.
Thanks to this elittles, we know that if you and your ex are parenting your child together, it's a good idea to communicate through email: "My experience is that communication via email is the best way to ensure that each 'co-parent' remain ‘respectable’ when communicating. This is in part due to the fact that emails can easily be documented."
This is a good idea for a few reasons, including the fact that email is pretty professional and this way, parents won't be sending angry text messages back and forth and things won't be blown out of proportion.
9 Compromise: Stay A Team And Talk To Your Ex About Your Child
This parent on Reddit made a good point when they shared their POV of c0-parenting. They said, "It can work and it can be great actually. It's nice still having someone in your life you can share cute stories about the kids with, call in a crisis, etc etc. It's hard, but the alternative is much worse I think. Sometimes you have to just put your ego aside for your kid, but if you can do it the pay off is worthwhile."
Couples who have to co-parent after splitting up can definitely figure things out if they can talk to each other about their kid and stay a team. This parent also makes the smart point that you can still talk to your ex about your child since you share that experience together and you might even enjoy that.
8 Compromise: Your Kids Will Like Seeing You Two As A Unit
Even if it's tough to think peaceful, good thoughts about your ex (because you've gone through a messy divorce), it's best to remember that at the end of the day, if you can work together, your children will do well. And they will really love seeing you two as a unit.
As this parent wrote on Reddit, "It involves a lot of humbleness and ignoring ego. Ignoring past hurts, too. I have two kids. The youngest (10) told me recently that he understands our family is different, that his dad and I are still parenting together but not married, and it makes him happy. You are doing what is right. Your kid is going to benefit so much from seeing her parents work together."
7 Compromise: You Can Each Have Your Own 'House Rules'
When a couple is together and under one roof, parenting is a lot easier because they can work as a team and have "house rules." These can be anything from how often kids can eat junk food, to curfew once they get older, and maybe any chores that they can help with — along with how much screen time is allowed.
Co-parenting can be tricky but if you have rules at your house and let your ex create their own rules for when your kid stays over there, it sounds like it can be a lot easier. This advice comes from a parent on Reddit. They said, "We do not comment on or try to change rules that are in force at each other's residence. He has his house rules and I have mine."
6 Compromise: You Can Work Out A Firm Schedule
Schedules are a good idea even for people who aren't parents yet because, without them, it can be tough to remember everywhere that you have to go and everything that you have to do. Schedules are super important to parents since kids have some many activities and there's always so much going on. Not to mention it's nice to keep your kids on a schedule.
Even if you co-parent, you can still flourish: you just need a firm schedule. This tip comes from this parent on Reddit who said, "Also, if pick up and drop off are at a certain time, then that's the time they will be there. A wishy-washy time is not in my paperwork. If it says 7:30 pm, then the drop off is that time."
5 Compromise: Believe This Is Your 'New Normal'
Even though it can be really stressful to co-parent with your ex, especially since of course you thought that you would stay together, it's possible to figure things out and make it all work smoothly.
The key could be to say that this is your "new normal" and basically be cool with the fact that your family situation has changed. That's how this parent figured things out: they shared on Reddit that they explained to their children what was going on. They said, "I told them it was our 'new normal.' I know a lot of the times we try to shield our children from problems in a marriage and it’s hard to justify why we moved on without painting our ex spouse in a bad light."
This is a great idea and seems like it would be helpful to many parents who are wondering what to say to their children.
4 Compromise: Equally Parent Your Kids When They're Young
The advice from this elittles blog is that when your kids are young, either toddlers or a few years older than that, they need to spend time with both parents (if that's how they're being raised).
These are important ages since your kids will need to know you well and remember who you are. If only one parent takes care of the kids and the other one isn't really around until much later, that can definitely cause some confusion and negative emotions, and no one wants that. You want your kids to know that they are loved by both parents and that they shouldn't feel anything negative about the family situation.
3 Compromise: Make A Game Plan Early On
How do you celebrate birthdays when you and your partner aren't together anymore and are co-parenting? Do you celebrate together or separately?
This is the question that was posted on a thread on Reddit and many who have been co-parenting shared their stories and gave advice. One person said, "I'd decide early on what type of co-parenting relationship you want and what the boundaries are."
That's pretty sound advice, right? It's always a good idea to know ahead of time what the expectations are and what's going to happen. That way, both partners have agreed and no one can complain or say that it's unfair (and your kids know what to expect, too, which is the most important thing here).
2 Compromise: Create Your Own Rules And Remember What Works For You Both
There are so many different ways that you could raise children, just like there are so many different ways to plan a wedding and there are so many career paths that you could go down. Sometimes it feels like it's a question of "too many cooks" (aka too many people giving advice and trying to be helpful) and it can be overwhelming to figure out a plan for your family.
As this person suggested on Reddit, parents can create their own rules for co-parenting and they can figure out what works for them: "Don’t feel like you have to live by anyone else’s standards or that there is any checklist of how to co-parent correctly." It's always a relief to remember this and it can really cut down on stress to do what you want.
1 Compromise: Focus On Your Kids And It'll Be Fine
This advice from Reddit will definitely be comforting to anyone who is just starting this sometimes tricky and challenging process: it's best to focus on your children and remember that's why the two of you are working together in the first place.
They put it perfectly when they wrote, "I also co-parent with a cheating ex. We found our niche and want the best for our child. It is always 100% about our child. Always remember that and you can’t go wrong!"
It's tough to co-parent, but it can be done, especially if you remember this good advice and be the best parent that you can for your little ones.
Sources: Reddit, elittles