Whether you're dealing with an ex-partner, ex-spouse, or are coming out of a complicated relationship, co-parenting is full of challenges. Some couples split up when their child (or children) aren't old enough to understand what's happening.
It also doesn't help that some parents have different ideas of what parenthood should look like. Plus, there may be some legal concerns if former couples are pursuing a divorce. These factors don't mean co-parenting has to be impossible.
With proper planning and the right attitude, co-parenting can work for both former partners and their children. After all, parents are parents for life—even if their relationship didn't work as they originally planned. The key is to respect ex-partners during the transition to separate lives.
Things can get complicated as ex-partners meet new people, get new jobs, and even move to different cities or states. Even so, some people have managed to co-parent regardless of the circumstances. The thing that motivates most people is that their child's well-being comes first and that they know they are loved.
Here are some successful tips about how to co-parent successfully. Parents have different styles and values, but one common thread in most of these tips is that respect is key to making co-parenting work!
20 Have a plan for your extended family
Part of successful co-parenting, according to Psychology Today, is planning as much as you can. This includes recognizing the role of extended family members on both sides. It may also include handling how your child/children may interact with close family friends as well.
Agreeing on the roles for your extended family can come a long way in ensuring you and your ex are on the same page. Make sure you're comfortable with the level of access your ex-partner's extended family will have when it's their turn to watch the kids.
19 Have a positive attitude when it's your ex's turn with your child
Dealing with an ex in any situation can be like revisiting an old wound. Having a positive attitude whenever dropping your child(ren) off with your ex-partner can help you cope, at least according to DivorceNet.
Regardless of how you may feel about your ex, they're still your child's other parent. Your child will still be looking forward to time spent with your ex. Your ex-partner may have different ideas about how much sugar your child should consume or what they can watch on TV. As long as your child is safe and not in an abusive situation, these are things you can live with.
18 Make sure kids have an input on what works for them
It's tricky to get a child's opinion if they're under a certain age. Sooner or later children will have an opinion on what's best for them and their schedule. According to Today's Parent, "fair" won't always mean "equal."
This means that parents won't always get their coveted 50/50 access to their children. Sometimes it's best for one parent to take your child out for breakfast on "your" weekend if this is something your child is used to. Keep this in mind and it will be easier to consistently do what's best for your child.
17 Remember co-parenting might be perfect for you
Writer Lara Bazelon wrote a poignant essay on Slate about how divorce and co-parenting suit her. Bazelon mentioned that she and her former partner have a friendly co-parenting relationship. She also opened up about how unhappy she felt in a relationship that wasn't working.
Despite the many changes brought on by divorce, former couples should remember that children are aware when their parents are unhappy. As such, couples who are amicably divorced or separated may be better able to ensure their children are happy and well-adjusted.
16 Treat your ex as a colleague
Another tip for successful co-parenting, according to Michigan State University Extension, is to treat the other parent as you would a colleague. But don't just take MSU's word for it, Today's Parent also offers similar advice.
This means communicating if you'll be late to pick the children up and being straightforward about decisions that will impact your co-parenting agreements. It also means ensuring that discussions with your child's other parent are handled discreetly, especially when they're about subjects you may not agree on.
15 Don't just focus on fun
It may be tempting for one of the parents to do solely fun activities with their child. However, Psychology Today mentions that it's important for children to take part in boring tasks with the parent they see less often. This means ensuring children do their chores, have a day or night in, or simply run errands.
Plus, it's a perfect opportunity to let your children know that everyone needs to take care of certain tasks in order to have a fully functioning home!
14 Share your kid's accomplishments!
When co-parenting, one of the parents may miss out on important moments. These could include a great report card, going on a first date, or winning an award. This is according to Lorraine C. Haddish, who wrote a column for the Huffington Post about how she and her ex-partner make co-parenting work.
It may also behoove you to ask the other parent to share these accomplishments as well. This may not happen, but it always helps when parents have positive things to share about their child/ren.
13 Take religious holidays into consideration
The Huffington Post mentions that divorce rates are higher for interfaith marriages. This can make co-parenting especially tough if one person ascribes to a religion and one doesn't, or if both parents have different beliefs.
One suggestion for parents requesting religious holidays with their children is to request less federal holidays from the other spouse. Remember that not all religious holidays are easy for young children to comply with. These may include holidays that require fasting, religious study, or elaborate ceremonies.
12 Appreciate the work step-parents are putting in
Most people who are in a co-parenting situation were unhappy with the relationship they were in. It's only natural for either party to enter a relationship with someone else, and it may even lead to another marriage!
According to VeryWell Family, appreciating the efforts of a new-stepparent can go a long way in ensuring your child adjusts to a new family member. It's important to express to your child that you feel their new (or potentially new) step-parent is trying.
11 Don't treat your child like an adult
Children also have to adjust to their parents' new style of parenting. According to Psychology Today, it's important not to add an undue burden for them. This means not using your child to provide information about the other parent, or asking them to relay messages on your behalf.
Plus, asking children to do adult duties on your behalf may make them feel insecure. This can lead to children doubting themselves about their own qualities. Not exposing your child to these feelings can go a long way!
10 Make decisions together
Making decisions is very hard when you're no longer legally wed (or have broken up with) your child's other parent. DivorceMag advises parents to make critical decisions along with the child's other parent. This can help both parents keep the child's best interests at heart.
Attend plays, soccer games, and parent meetings together whenever possible can also show your child you're both still there for them. This will only benefit them and let them know that a parental split doesn't mean the end of a happy relationship with either parent.
9 Encourage your child's relationship with the other parent
Whether your co-parenting agreement involves a custody agreement or an informal agreement, it's important that your child always has access to the other parent. According to the Huffington Post, it's best to let children know they can openly express their love for either parent under any circumstance.
This means encouraging your child to write, call, or email the other parent whenever they'd like. It could also include buying a present or a card for the other parent's birthday or another special occasion.
8 Don't be late with child support payments!
It goes without saying that child support is extremely important in helping the other spouse care for your child. The Arkansas Bar Association came up with a handbook called From Parent Wars to Co-Parenting that lists this as one of the many tips needed for successful co-parenting.
Like any other situation, your ex may understand if you're having a hard time. Communication is key, especially for child support arrangements that may be legally binding. Plus, you'll feel good knowing your child has the resources they need!
7 Discuss anything that makes you uncomfortable
Even in the best of circumstances, there may come a time when something about your ex-partner's co-parenting may make you upset. According to Psychology Today, the best thing you can do in this circumstance is to communicate directly with your child's other parent.
When discussing this, make sure to use "I" statements and avoid finger-pointing. After all, there may come a time when your ex-partner may need to air out some of their frustrations with you! Remember to be kind and things should go smoothly.
6 Accept your ex-partner as they are
Co-parenting often reminds some parents why their relationship ended. In the Huffington Post, Lorraine C. Ladish mentioned that one key to co-parenting success is to accept your former partner as they are.
Counseling can help co-parents deal with things they hadn't taken care of while they were together. If that's not an option then it's important to remember that former partners will move on with their lives. Their choices are totally ok as long as they're not detrimental to the kids.
5 Get counseling, if necessary
People end up co-parenting for a variety of reasons. From Parent Wars to Co-Parenting advises couples to seek counseling. This can be equally helpful for the newly divorced, or for couples who broke up under different circumstances.
Former partners who have difficulty getting along after their break-up can take steps that will help them get along better. Counseling is an investment that could help both parents keep their children happy while coping with their split. Getting on the same page will help the children most of all.
4 Enforce rules equally (as much as you can!)
Co-parenting can make rules a challenge for children. In most couples, one parent is stricter than the other. According to Kerry Smith at DivorceMag, it's important that parents create rules they can each enforce.
Having both parents enforce rules can keep things consistent—something children need as they deal with their parents' break-up. Agreeing on rules can help children avoid resenting the other parent. It can also help keep things transparent by making sure children don't try to take advantage of one parent as well.
3 Don't ask your child to snitch on your ex-partner
Your child may voluntarily divulge information about the other parent. However, according to DivorceNet, it's important not to use your child to obtain information about your former partner. First off, this could put your child in a position they're not prepared to handle.
Plus, it's easier than ever for co-parents to update each other on anything that could affect their child. Texting, co-parenting apps, email, and phone calls are a formidable solution.
Conversely, it's important to keep your criticisms about the other parent to yourself! Trashing your ex is harmful and confusing for your child.
2 Check in with your ex-partner and child about your arrangements
Today's Parent advises co-parents to meet regularly to check in on how their child is doing. This can be done at your convenience, or even monthly. Having frequent check-ins will allow you, your former partner, and your child/ren to have a say over what is working or what may need to be changed.
If your child is too young to have a definite say, having check-ins will allow both parents to share their observations. This can help smooth over any issues before they become a large problem.
1 Communicate often!
According to VeryWell Family, good communication is a common trait in successful blended families. Part of this includes paying your share of child-related costs on time, picking up and dropping off your children on time, and not using your children to deliver messages to your ex on your behalf.
The goal of effective communication is to ensure your child is equally comfortable with both parents. This can also include being flexible and understanding when inconveniences come up. The most important thing both parents can do is consistently remind their child they are loved.
Sources: popsugar.com, thebump.com, medium.com, medium.com, buckschildcare.com, closeronline.co.uk, yourtango.com, wevorce.com, schultzfamilylaw.com, coparenting.co.za, integrousresolutions.com, kidspot.com.au, huffingtonpost.com, goodmenproject.com, divorcelawyersrhodeisland.com, alphamom.com, 2houses.com, marriage.com, huffingtonpost.com, hprc-online.com, psychologytoday.com, divorcenet.com, todaysparent.com, slate.com, msu.edu, huffingtonpost.com, huffingtonpost.com, verywellfamily.com, divorcemag.com, arlegalservices.org